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Copyright 1992 

Joe K. Y. B. Amoako 

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to 
Professor John Lipski, the cochair for this dissertation, 
who spent a lot of his time in helping me with his very good 
suggestions especially on the theoretical aspects. 
Professor Allan Burns, the chair for this dissertation, gave 
me a lot of encouragement as well as guidance, especially on 
the socioliguistics part of this work and he deserves my 
gratefulness. Special thanks go to the other members of the 
dissertation committee, Professors Chauncey Chu, Norman 
Markel, and Goran Hyden, for suggestions that have brought 
about the completion of this work. I owe thanks to 
Professor Florence Dolphyne of the Department of Linguistics 
at the University of Ghana, who brought my attention to the 
fact that no formal studies had been done on the pidgin 
English situation in Ghana. It was through Professor Kofi 
Anyidoho of the University of Ghana, who was also one of my 
informants, that I corresponded with Professor Ian Hancook 
of the University of Texas who directed me on how to do the 
research on the pidgin English in Ghana. I am indebted to 
both of them for their assistance. I must express my thanks 
to Joyce Adjorlolo and Amoako-Atta for their asssistance in 
the distribution and collection of the questionnaire. I 
thank the following informants for their time and 
information: Mr. Akweyena and George Danyare of Institute of 
Adult Education; Dan Amakye-Dede, leader of Apollo High King 


Band of Ghana; Georgina Amankwah and Anthony Pegah of Kumasi 
Polytechnic; Asiedu-Yirenkyi, first P.N.D.C. secretary for 
Culture and Tourism and a lecturer at the University of 
Ghana; Mr. Ayeh, managing director of CEREDEC; Nana-Benyin 
and Ernest Sarfo-Baidoo of Third Eye Band; Kofi Sammy of 
Okukuseku International Band; Gustav Baidoo and Agnes 
Ewusiamah of Achimota Primary School; Mr. Torkonoo of the 
"Ghanaian Times" ; Job Enning of the Ghana Atomic Energy 
Commission Primary School; Ms. Salamatu; Ms. Serwah-Awuku; 
Monica Addo and Rebecca Djadu; Kofi Ntiamoah of Homotta 
comics; H.T.K. Bobobee; Alhassan of Commonwealth Hall at 
Legon; and the other numerous informants without whose help 
this work would not be successful. Special thanks should go 
to Ms. Hellen Odamtten, a former worker of the Ghana 
Broadcasting Corporation and a senior research fellow at the 
University of Ghana for contributing to the history and 
syntax parts of this work. I wish to express my thanks to 
Mr. Simbo Odunaiya for his computer guidance that enabled me 
make the beautiful graphics in this work. Finally, I thank 
my wife, Doris Boateng, for her patience and encouragement. 
Needless to say, I am solely responsible for any errors or 
imperfections in this work. All I can say is "Na Gz>d go 
tank de pipul wey dem help mi. Wey de m^m n k=>k de krow mek 
yu sabi sey i bi Joe de tank yu 3z>." ("It is God who will 
thank the people who helped me. When the morning rooster 
crows, you should know that it is Joe thanking you all."). 








Introduction 1 

Social and Structural Criteria 1 

Nonnative Speaker Criterion 3 

Definition of Creole 4 

Etymology of "Pidgin" 5 

Etymology of Creole 6 

Summary 7 


Introduction 9 

A Step-by-Step History of Pidgin English in 

West Africa 9 

The Portuguese 10 

The Dutch 13 

The British 15 

Principal Pidgin English Varieties in West 

Africa 18 

Nigeria 21 

Sierra Leone 23 

Liberia 28 

Cameroon 31 

Summary 33 


Research Background 35 

Methodology 3 6 

History of Ghanaian Pidgin English 39 

Colonial Settlement 39 

Second World War 43 

News Media 44 

Current Emergence of Ghanaian Pidgin English. 4 6 

Contact with other West African States 48 

The Nigerian Influence 48 

Other Factors 51 

Summary 52 


Introduction 54 

Phonology 57 

Vowels of GPE 57 

Consonants of GPE 58 

Syllable Structure of GPE 59 

Tone 60 

Vowel Harmony 61 

Morphology 64 

Reduplication 64 

Word Compounding in GPE 70 

Syntax 71 

The Basic Sentence Structure 71 

Tense-Modal-Aspect 71 

Negation 76 

Imperative 78 

Interrogative 78 

Exclamations and Emphasis 80 

Personal Pronouns 81 

Possessives 81 

The Articles 82 

Prepositions and Postpositions 83 

Complementizer "sey" 84 

Comparative / Superlative Expression 84 

Semantics of Some G.P.E. Words 86 

Words from other Languages 9 6 

Orthography 96 

Summary 97 


Introduction 99 

Speakers and Places of GPE 100 

Age Groups 106 

Male and Female Speakers 106 

Teachers 108 

Family Members and Friends 109 

Traders and Farmers 109 

Ordinary Workers 110 

Government Officials no 

Drivers Ill 

Priests HI 

Students 112 


Others 113 

Uses of Ghanaian Pidgin English 114 

Written Usage 114 

Literature 115 

Entertainment 118 

Newspapers 119 

Spoken Usage 121 

Communication 122 

Simplicity of GPE 123 

Socialization and Fun 124 

Politics 125 

Entertainment 12 6 

People ■ s Attitudes Toward GPE 129 

Summary 142 







A Conversation Between Two Students About a 

Future Date 158 

A Song by Okukuseku International Band 160 

Interview with Kofi Sammy 161 

A Song by Apollo King International Band 162 


Gyato Magani 164 

Baba Dogo 176 

Super Mugu Yaro 186 




Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School 
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the 
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy 



Joe K. Y. B. Amoako 
December 1992 

Chairperson: Allan Burns 
Major Department: Linguistics 

Considerable misinformation has been circulated about 
Ghanaian Pidgin English (GPE) . Some Ghanaians attribute the 
worsening of standard English to the emergence of GPE. But 
GPE is serving a very important purpose which many critics 
overlook. It serves as an important medium of 
communication. It is used on a wide scale at many places, 
in popular songs, on political platforms, and on many 
occasions. It is used by both literate and illiterate 
people. Most importantly, pidgin English is becoming the 
lingua franca in English speaking West Africa countries. 

There has not been much formal attempt to study the 
pidgin English situation in Ghana, and because of this, some 
linguists do not believe that there is a pidgin in the 
country. In a personal letter to me, Professor Ian Hancock, 
a creolist at the University of Texas, expressed the need 
for a research on Ghanaian Pidgin English: "It is 
heartening to learn that serious scholarly attention is 


being given to Pidgin in Ghana, the one West African nation 
for which least information is available on the local pidgin 
English." The above observations, among other things, 
prompted me to do a research on the language so that it will 
open the way for other linguists to know that there is a 
pidgin in Ghana. 

The study consists of six chapters which deal with the 
definitions and etymologies of pidgin and Creole, the 
history of West African Pidgin English, the methodology of 
the research, history of GPE, a detailed linguistic analysis 
of GPE, the sociolinguistics of GPE, as well as conclusions 
on the survey. 

Data were collected on GPE over a period of nine 
months. Out of the 400 copies of questionnaire distributed, 
3 04 were retrieved. This period was also used in tape- 
recording interviews, conversations, and songs, as well as 
collecting magazines and newspapers. The informants who 
consisted of both sexes ranged from school children to a 
secretary of state. 

The survey shows that there is a pidgin English in 
Ghana, and that it has been influenced by the substrate 
languages. It is spreading fast, especially among the 
youths because it is being used not only as a means of 
communication but also as a means of solidarity. 




This chapter is devoted to a literature review on the 
definition and etymology of pidgin and Creole . I will cite 
some of these definitions to acquaint ourselves with these 
two concepts are. This will help decide whether what is 
being discussed in this work is a pidgin or Creole , or it is 
none of them. 

Social and Structural Criteria 

"Pidgin" has been defined with different criteria by 
various authors. Two of these are social and structural. 
The social criterion states the need for a language as a 
means of communication when people who do not have a common 
language come together; and the structural criterion is the 
reduced structure of such a language that would evolve to 
serve as a means of communication. 

John Lyons defines pidgin languages as: 

Specialized languages used for trade or similar 
purposes by those who have no other common language. 
It is characteristic of pidgin that they have a 
simplified grammar and a highly restricted vocabulary 
in comparison to the language or languages, upon which 
they are based. (Lyons 1981:30-31) 


For Holm, "a pidgin is a reduced language that results from 

extended contact between groups of people with no language 

in common; it evolves when they need some means of verbal 

communication, perhaps for trade" (Holm 1988:4). Todd has 

the following to say about the definition of pidgin. 

A pidgin is a marginal language which arises to fulfil 
certain communication needs among people who have no 
common language. In the initial stages of contact the 
communication is often limited to transactions where a 
detailed exchange of ideas is not reguired and where a 
small vocabulary, drawn almost exclusively from one 
language, suffices. The syntactic structure of pidgin 
is less complex and less flexible than the structure of 
languages which were in contact. (Todd 1974:1-2) 

Hall claims that a new pidgin is likely to arise 
whenever a guide meets a tourist, or a shopkeeper meets a 
customer, and the two do not share a common language. He 
further states that a pidgin will draw its minimal 
vocabulary from both languages. He again states that the 
phonology and syntax will be reduced and the pidgin is 
suitable only for minimal and specialized communication 
(Hall 1954) . 

Apart from the communicative approach, Wardhaugh has 
added function to his definition of pidgin. He writes that 
"pidginization generally involves the simplification of a 
language, e.g., reduction in morphology (word structure) and 
syntax (grammatical structure) , tolerance of considerable 
phonological variation (pronunciation) , reduction in the 
number of functions for which the pidgin is used, and 
extensive borrowing of words from local mother-tongues" 

(Wardhaugh 1990:59). He argues that one usually does not 
attempt to write novels in a pidgin. 

NonNative Speaker Criterion 

Another criterion which has been used to define pidgin 
in addition to the social and structural criteria is that 
pidgin does not have native speakers. Hall writes that "by 
definition, a pidgin language is one with two special 
charateristics: (1) it is native to none, or virtually none, 
of those who speak it; (2) it is sharply reduced in 
structure and vocabulary, as contrasted with the language 
from which it is derived" (Hall 1954:20). He uses Pidgin 
English as an example of his definition for pidgin. "Pidgin 
English is any one of several kinds of reduced language, 
based on but differing from English, used by various parts 
of the world as a lingua franca among speakers of different 
languages but native to none of them" (ibid 23) . 

Wardhaugh, in using the nonnative speaker criterion, 
defines pidgin as "a language with no native speakers: it is 
no one's first language but is a contact language " 
(Wardhaugh 1990:57). 

Fasold has combined all the three criteria, social, 

structural, and nonnative speaker, to define pidgin. 

Roughly, a pidgin language is generally understood to 
be a "simplified" language with a vocabulary that comes 
mostly from another language, but whose grammar is 
different. Pidgins, in the stereotypical case, are 
formed when speakers of one language engage in trade 
with speakers of another, or work on plantations 
managed by speakers of another, and neither knows the 

other's language. Pidgins are no one's mother tongue. 
(Fasold 1990:180) 

David De Camp is another writer who has used the three 

criteria to define pidgin. He also states that it is a 


A pidgin is a contact vernacular, normally not the 
native language of any speakers. It is used in trading 
or in any situation requiring communication between 
persons who do not speak each other's native language. 
It is characterized by a limited vocabulary, an 
elimination of many grammatical devices such as number 
and gender, and a drastic reduction of redundant 
features. (De Camp 1971) 

Definition of Creole 

The most general popular account states that Creoles 

arise when a pidgin becomes the native language of a new 

generation of children. In other words, pidgin becomes a 

creole when it acquires native speakers (Fasold 1990:83; 

Hall 1954:21; Todd 1974:3; Hymes 1971:3; DeCamp 1971:15; 

Wardhaugh 1990:58; Muhlhausler 1986:7; Holm 1988:6). 

This occurs, for instance, when parents from different 
linguistic backgrounds communicate among themselves and 
with their offspring in a makeshift pidgin, which is 
elaborated and adopted as a means of intercommunication 
by the next generation. Thus the children in this 
situation: are exposed to imperfect, reduced language 
input; elaborate this input using new grammatical 
devices gleaned from internal resources, that is, by 
appealing to their innate linguistic knowledge; and 
eventually speak a language that is both quantitatively 
and qualitatively different from that spoken by their 
parents and, in many cases, not intelligible to them. 
(Muhlhausler 1986:7) 

The appeal of children to the innate linguistic 

knowledge in the acquisition of Creole suggested by 

Muhlhausler is related to Bickerton's definition of creole: 

"Creoles are reflections of a natural bioprogram for human 
language which is activated in cases of imperfect language 
transmission" (Bickerton 1981) . 

Bickerton suggests that "the essential difference 
between pidginization and creolization is that pidginization 
is second-language learning with restricted input and 
creolization is first-language learning, also with 
restricted input" (Bickerton 1981) . 

Etymology of "Pidgin" 
There have been many proposals as to the etymology of 
the term "pidgin". The more widespread of these proposals 
include the following taken from Muhlhausler (1986:1): 

1. the definition given by the Oxford English Dictionary 
(OED) of a "Chinese corruption of English "business"; 

2. a Chinese corruption of the Portuguese word ocupacao : 
"business" ; 

3. Hebrew p idiom : "exchange, trade, redemption"; 

4. Yago (a South American Indian language spoken in an area 
colonized by Britain) pidian : "people"; 

5. South Seas pronunciation of English "beach" (beachee) 
from the location where the language was typically used 
(Muhlhausler 1986) ; 

6. derived from pegueno portugues . roughly "little 
Portuguese" ; 

7. derived from Baixo portugues "low Portuguese" (Holm 1988) 

Of all the above proposals, the OED theory enjoys the 
most popular support. In a paper presented at the 1990 


Linguistic Society of America (LSA) conference, Dingxu Shi 

used phonological evidence to support the OED theory. 

The word for "business" is found in a Chinese Pidgin 
English phrase book that was popular around Canton in 
the early 19th century. It is represented by two 
Chinese characters pronounced as [pitsin] with an 
unaspirated voiceless stop [p] and an unaspirated 
affricate [ts] . The two consonants are the closest a 
Cantonese speaker can get for [b] and [z]. The English 
speakers in turn would pronounce the two Cantonese 
sounds as [p h ] and [dz]. The insertion of vowel after 
a syllable-final consonant is common in Chinese Pidgin 
English. (Shi 1990) 

Etymology of Creole 

The term "creole" originated in one of Portugal's 

colonies in the sixteenth century. Both form and meaning 

suggest an etymology criar "to nurse, breed, nourish" 

(Valkhoff 1966:34). According to Muhlhausler, "originally 

the meaning of criolho was 'slave in European employment, 

particularly around the house, white man or woman 

originating from the colonies'" (Muhlhausler 1986:6). 

The word "creole" has adopted a number of meanings. 

Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary gives the 

following meanings to it. 

1. white person born in the colonies 

2. a person of European descent born especially in the 
West Indies or Spanish America 

3 . a white person descended from early French or 
Spanish settlers of the U.S. Gulf states and preserving 
their speech and culture 

4 . a person of mixed French or Spanish and Negro 
descent speaking a dialect of French or Spanish 

5. a language based on two or more languages that 
serves as the native language of its speakers 

(Merriam-Webster 1984:305-6) 

According to Holm, Crioulo . which is a Portuguese word 
"with a diminutive suffix, came to mean an African slave 
born in the New World in Brazilian usage. Its meaning was 
then extended to include Europeans born in the New World. 
The word finally came to refer to the customs and speech of 
Africans and Europeans born in the New World. It was later 
borrowed as Spanish criollo . French crfeole, Dutch creol , 
and English Creole " (Holm 1988:9). 


In this chapter, we have attempted to deal with the 
definitions of pidgin and Creole languages. Pidgin evolves 
when people who do not understand each other's language meet 
and they want to communicate verbally. This is the social 
definition of pidgin. The structural definition states that 
pidgin has a reduced language structure which means that its 
phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics are simpler 
than those of the language or languages that it may evolve 
from. By definition pidgin does not have native speakers. 
Pidgin becomes creole when it acquires a native speaker. 
The linguistic structure of a creole is more complex than 
that of pidgin. Ghanaian Pidgin English (GPE) which is the 
topic of this work has no opportunity of being creolized in 
the near future, because the Ghanaian children have access 
to one or more of the 45 Ghanaian local languages. 

Moreover GPE is not a popular language in the homes of its 
speakers. This means GPE will remain a pidgin for a long 
time to come. 



This chapter contains two subsections. The first 
section deals with the step-by-step history of pidgin 
English in West Africa; we will discuss how Portuguese, 
Dutch, and British have contributed toward pidgin English in 
West Africa. The second section deals with an enumeration 
of the principal pidgin English varieties in West Africa, 
which are Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Cameroon. 
A Step-bv-Step History of Pidain English in West Afrina 
The exact date of the development of an English-based 
pidgin in West Africa cannot be determined. It probably 
began with the first contacts with the British in the 
sixteenth century (Mafeni 1971:97; Spencer 1971:8). Before 
the British built their first English fort at Cormantine on 
the Gold Coast in 1631, the Portuguese, who were followed by 
the Dutch, had traded with the people of West Africa and had 
made some impact on the linguistics of this area. In this 
section, I will discuss, chronologically, how these three 
European nations contributed toward the evolution of pidgin 
English in West Africa. 

The Portuguese 

There was a pidgin Portuguese which was used in parts 
of Africa throughout the 16th and 17th centuries (Naro 
1978:334). Naro states that the history of pidgin 
Portuguese is divided into two temporally and geographically 
distinct phases. The first phase is the period of formation 
in Europe, beginning around the 144 0s, and the second phase 
is the period of transfer and establishment in West Africa 
of the resultant "acguired code," beginning around 1500. 

The captains of Prince Henry the Navigator of Portugal 
reached Cape Verde in 1444, Sierra Leone in 1460 and the 
Gold Coast (now Ghana) in 1471 (Spencer 1971:7). They 
colonized the Cape Verde Islands and used them as a base for 
settlements south along the coast. They built the fort of 
Sao Jorge de Mina 1 in the Gold Coast. They set up a station 
at Gwato, the port of Benin, and colonized the island of Sao 
Thome as a center for their Niger-Cameroons trade. They 
established settlements, forts and trading stations down the 
western and up the eastern sub-eguatorial coasts of Africa, 
and they reached Goa and Calicut and the Malabar coast of 
India, as well as Malacca on the Malayan peninsular 
(ibid. 8) . 

Native speakers of West African languages were captured 
and taken to Portugal, where, at the orders of Prince Henry 
the Navigator, they were taught Portuguese so that they 
could be used as translators on future voyages (Naro 


1978:314). A pidgin Portuguese which Naro calls 
"reconnaisance language" evolved in Europe, first between 
those Africans who were sent there and the Portuguese, and 
then later on among the Portuguese and other nationalities 
who were in Portugal. "The purpose of the reconnaissance 
language, from the Portuguese point of view, was to 
facilitate linguistic comprehension when necessary; it could 
be used in speaking to persons of any social standing and of 
any nationality, under appropriate circumstances (ibid: 326). 

The Portuguese settlers and traders who set up 
permanent households, usually with African women, in West 
Africa might have been the means of transfer of the 
reconnaissance language from Europe to Africa. These 
setllers had direct linguistic contact with the Africans in 
their daily life. 

The major linguistic significance of the Portuguese 
voyages and trade is the traces of Portuguese vocabulary 
that are found in some African languages and especially in 
pidgin and Creole languages. In the Akan language of Ghana, 
some Portuguese words, which have been phonologically 
assimilated into the Akan language, are still in use. 
Portuguese carta ("letter") has become Akan krataa ("a 
letter or paper"). Porco ("pig") has become prako with the 
same meaning. Portuguese camisa ("shirt") has become Akan 
kamisa ("a woman's one-piece undergarment"); conta 


("accounting, reckoning") is konta in Akan with the same 

meaning; Portuguese coco ("coconut") is kube 2 in Akan; and 

Portuguese sapato ("shoe") has become the Akan word sepatere 

with the same meaning (Amoako 1988:4). 

Many linguists have discussed the Portuguese vocabulary 

items in pidgin English. We will provide the discussions by 

Schneider and Spencer because they deal specifically with 

West African Pidgin English. 

A few high frequency vocabulary items are a legacy from 
Portuguese Pidgin which held on into the 17th century 
and constitutes a vocabulary substratum in West African 
Pidgin English. Examples: P-E / pikin/ from 
[pequenino] PORT, 'child / little one'. P-E / dash/ 
from [dache] PORT, 'gift' or 'tribute' and extended to 
cover a broad semantic field of meaning. P-E / sabi/ 
from [saber] PORT. 'know'. P-E / palaba/ from [palavra] 
PORT. 'conference', 'discussion' and in Portuguese 
'word', The forms — dash , pikin , palaver and savvy — 
appear in many historical sources and 'dialect' 
conversations of 19-20th century writers. (Schneider 

The Portuguese exploration has bequeathed to the world 
as well as to West African Pidgin English many of the 
prominent place-names which lie recorded in the portulans of 
the 15-16th century sources. Examples of these place-names 
are Guinea, Elmina, Lagos, Cape Verde, Cape Palmas, Porto 
Novo, Sierra Leone, Luanda, Cross River, Fernando Po, and 
Cameroons (ibid. 7). 

Writing about the early voyages and trade of the 
Portuguese, Spencer also writes on the Portuguese influence 
on Pidgin vocabulary: 


From these early centuries date some of the most 
characteristic Pidgin words, known and used by almost 
everyone, English or African, who has lived in the 
coastal areas of West Africa: dash , n and v, ' (to 
give) a gift, bribe, tip or commission 1 ; pickin . n, 'a 
young child'; palaver , n, 'talk, argument, trouble', 
and compounds such as mammy-palaver , 'woman (or wife) 
trouble', belly-palaver , 'stomach trouble'; chop n and 
v, 'food' and 'eat', and its recent extensions in 
phrases such as small chop , 'cocktail eats', chop box , 
'food box for use on trek, originally for head 
loading', etc. (Spencer 1971:11) 

The Dutch 

In 1581 the northern Dutch provinces declared their 
independence from Spain and successfully defended it. The 
Dutch, from that time, embarked on a worldwide commercial 
enterprise. By the middle of the seventeenth century they 
had built a vast Dutch empire which circled the planet with 
outposts from what is today New York to the Caribbean, 
Brazil, Africa, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan, and 
Japan (Holm 1989:322). They took over all of Portugal's 
possessions in West Africa by 1642. They made some few 
settlements on the Gold Coast (now Ghana) and traded with 
its people between 1595 and 1869 (Ward 1948) . They captured 
the Elmina castle on the Gold Coast in 1637. 

One remarkable thing about the Dutch is that there are 
very few linguistic remnants of the vast empire that they 
built. Negerhollands (D 'Negro Dutch) is a Creole once 
widely spoken in what became the United States Virgin 
Islands; it is extinct today (Holm 1989:325). Berbice 
Creole Dutch is one of the two nearly extinct Dutch-based 
Creoles spoken in Guyana (ibid. 329). Skepi is also a Dutch- 

based Creole which was once widely spoken along Guyana's 
Essequibo river (ibid. 333). Afrikaans, which is spoken in 
the Republic of South Africa, is a standardized language 
that descended from seventeenth-century dialects of 
Dutch . 

Dutch was never a superstrate nor a substrate to any 
language in West Africa. "This seems unusual for the Dutch 
were trading in West Coast waters for over two centuries and 
practically monopolized the trade for 60 years" (Schneider 
1967:8). Only some few Dutch words which have been 
phonologically assimilated are found in the Akan language of 
Ghana. Dutch klaar ("ready to do something") is the Akan 
word krado with the same meaning. Dutch doek ("piece of 
cloth") is the Akan word duku meaning "headscarf" or 
"handkerchief." Some Akans pronounce the Dutch word kalkoen 
("turkey") as krakuun while others pronounce it kurokurokoko 
because of some semantic extension that has been associated 
with the noise made by the turkey (Amoako 1988:6). It is no 
wonder that these Dutch words are still used in the Akan 
language for the Dutch traded with the Akans for a long time 
especially during the slave trade. It is also because of 
this long contact between the Dutch and the Akans that the 
Negerhollands has a predominantly Twi substrate (Holm 
1989:325). Twi is a dialect of Akan. 

Some of the reasons that have been attributed to the 
lesser impact of the Dutch in linguistic terms are that 

"they were usually neither the first nor the only Europeans 
to arrive in the areas they colonized, and in most cases 
they did not remain as long as the British and the French" 
(ibid. 322). Their own attitudes may have undermined the 
spread of their language. It is claimed that "till the 
middle of the nineteenth century the Hollanders regarded 
their language as a sort of caste-language and heard 
unwillingly its employment by their inferiors" (quoted by 
Reinecke 1937:443). Another probable contributing factor is 
the traditional proficiency of the Dutch in more widely 
spoken languages; "the Dutch seem linguistically to have 
been the most accommmodating traders . . . they, in contrast 
to the British and French, must have made full use of the 
Portuguese Pidgin or Creole" (Le Page & Tabouret-Keller 
1985:29). In fact, the Dutch tended to be polyglots. It 
has also been observed that "the emphasis was on the 
commercial. No settlement, no assimilation (inter-marriage, 
miscegnation, fraternization) , no religous fervor or attempt 
to Christianization, no culture contact. The Dutch confined 
themselves to their ships and establishments" (Schneider 
1967:9) . 
The British 

The following account of the contribution made by the 
British toward West African Pidgin English is the one given 
by Schneider (1967) . His account is a summary of other 
accounts given by various writers (Holm 1989, Spencer 1971.) 


British privateers or "fortune seekers" engaged in 
smuggling, "high- jacking" and irregular slaving were working 
the Atlantic ever since the sixteenth century. The great 
colonial powers were engaged in a highly competitive 
Atlantic trade, the business of buying slaves on the African 
West coast. The struggle was long and England and France 
remained after the Dutch were forced to give up their empire 
and concentrate efforts at strategic places. The treaty of 
Utrecht in 1713 between England and France divided the West 
African Coast. "By 1713 the French had replaced the Dutch 
as the strongest European power on the shores of Upper 
Guinea, and the English were strongly established in 
competition with the Dutch on the Gold Coast" (Fage 
1961:67) . 

The British receive credit for carrying the bulk of 
African products and slaves during the eighteenth century. 
This very fact demanded closer contact of cultures, 
developing of new methods, and exchange of opinions and 
ideas, and much closer association. The very foundations 
were being laid for the development of West African Pidgin 
English. All along the African West Coast the local 
indigenous authorities made agreements with individual and 
independent traders. During the eighteenth century this 
pattern was drastically revised by the companies in what is 
known as the "factory system". The "factory" was in reality 
a trading post where "factors" lived and conducted the 

details of large companies. The "factor" himself usually 
had a fairly free hand to buy and sell in his own name. He 
received a commission for his efforts and was entrusted with 
the goods of the company. The larger stores and shops in 
Cameroon are still referred to as faktri. 

West African Pidgin English became firmly established 
through the entire coastal area and there is some evidence 
that the slaves of the early nineteenth century, recaptured 
and off-loaded at Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Fernando Po 
were communicating in pidgin English. 

Schneider gives the following as the major reasons why 

pidgin English emerged and survived in West Africa. 

Firstly: Pidgin-English began to develop during the 
17th century. These developments are documented by 
Dutch sources of the West Coast. Pidgin-English 
competed with Pidgin-Portuguese and perhaps a 
smattering of Dutch but by the 18th century had gained 
the greater part of the West Coast as its arena of 
communication . 

Secondly: The ascendancy of Britain as the chief 
carrier of slaves and later as the organizer of West 
Coast trade set the pattern for the spread and 
development of Pidgin-English. This was greatly 
facilitated by the "factory" and the attempts to 
monopolize the trade through such procedures as the 
"trust", creation of a hierarchy of middlemen, the 
employment of Africans as factors, the incentives of 
gifts, security and bonuses for effort. 

Thirdly: The English traders, artisans and sailors 
were ordinary men. Many had little formal education. 
They had no fixed opinions about language, no visceral 
reactions when their dialect was "pounded and battered. 

This type of contact situation was excellent soil in 
which the seeds of Pidgin-English could thrive. 
(Schneider 1969:14-15) 


We conclude this section by recognizing that history 
has influenced the evolution of pigins in West Africa, 
especially pidgin English. Pidginization of European 
languages in West Africa began with Portuguese and now 
pidgin English is spoken in many West Africa countries. 
Principal Pidgin English Varieties in West Africa 

English-based pidgins and Creoles are spoken in West 

Africa from the Gambia to the Cameroon. They are spoken in 

countries where English is an official language. These 

countries are Gambia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana, Nigeria, 

and Cameroon. Spencer has the following to say about the 

role of the English language in West Africa. 

In West Africa English exists alongside a multitude of 
other languages which constitute the mother tongues of 
practically all the peoples of those states which 
retain English as an important auxiliary, or sometimes 
as an explicitly national, language. As these 
societies develop, as their populations become socially 
and geographically more mobile, as institutions and 
organizations spread and multiply, and as group 
interacts with group in the process of modernization, 
so the place of English gets more interwoven with the 
lives of more and more people. It is normally through 
English that an individual breaks the bonds of West 
African traditional life and enters into some kind of 
relationship with the westernized sectors of the 
society. Through English he obtains the education 
which is the road to the kind of success which awaits 
him beyond the village or the tribe. Through English 
of one kind or another he communicates with fellow 
citizens from language groups other than his own, or 
with foreigners. English is the language of 
institutions implanted by colonialism: the law, large- 
scale business, formal education beyond the first two 
or three years of primary school, science and 
technology, central administration and politics. 
(Spencer 1971:3) 


Standard English is the type of English that Spencer is 

talking about in the above guotation. On the other hand, if 

one listened to children in the playground, or to students 

on educational campuses, one might hear another language, 

closely related in some ways to English, but certainly 

unintelligible to native English speakers from outside West 

Africa: Pidgin English (ibid. 5). The social stigma that 

people associate with pidgins, and for that matter pidgin 

English, is discussed by Spencer: 

Where it existed as a lingua franca in local community 
life it was forbidden in classroom and hopefully, in 
playground and dormitory too. It was frowned upon by 
the schoolmaster and swept under the carpet by almost 
all colonial educationists. Many Africans who made use 
of it were also made ashamed of it. From the point of 
view of formal education Pidgin, as well as Krio, the 
creole language of Freetown, lived an "underground" 
existence. (ibid. 5) 

For the sake of simplicity, Holm divides the English- 
based pidgin and creole in West Africa into three major 
groups: Krio, including nonnative and emigrant varieties, 
in Sierra Leone; Liberian, with similar divisions; and West 
African Pidgin English, as spoken in Ghana, Nigeria, and 
Cameroon. "Because of their interconnected histories, Krio 
and Pidgin share a number of features and there is 
considerable mutual intelligibility between their speakers, 
although neither group can understand much Liberian" (Holm 
1989:409) . 

This is how Schneider has defined Pidgin English as it 
is related to West Africa: 


Pidgin-English is the most common name given to a 
lingua franca spoken throughout West Africa from Sierra 
Leone to the Gabon. It is a meduim of communication 
for African peoples who have no first language in 
common, for white men of various ethnic backgrounds and 
for the West African working man, trader and transient 
peoples. Pidgin-English is not a mere simplification 
of English, but a separate and describable language. 
Its vocabulary is predominantly English-based, but the 
lexical forms have changed their meaning to fit into 
the value system and world view of the African 
people. (Schneider 1966:2) 

According to Barbag-Stoll, the term West African Pidgin 

English (WAPE) is a linguist's invention which covers 

different, often mutually unintelligible varieties spoken on 

the West African Coast (Barbag-Stoll 1983:37). Barbag-Stoll 

has listed a number of names that are used in referring to 


It is often referred to as Bastard English, Broken 
English, Funny English, Vulgar English (value judgement 
labels) , Kitchen English, Factory English, Market 
English, Trade English (institution labels), Coast 
English, West African Negro English, Liberian English, 
Sierra Leone English (dialect labels), etc. (ibid. 37) 

The above value judgement and institution labels have 

come about because of the assumed relationship between WAPE 

and standard English. This has happened because of the 

language contact between Europe and West Africa which 

began, as already stated above, with the arrival of the 

Portuguese on the West African coast in the fifteenth 

century (Schneider 1967:4; Spencer 1971:7; Holm 1989:268). 

The Portuguese were followed by the Dutch who in turn were 

followed by the English. They all contributed to carve the 

pidgin English in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cameroon, 
and Ghana. 

The area that is now coastal Nigeria never had forts 
built by the Europeans for the slave trade. Although the 
Portuguese began the traffic in slaves in this area early 
on, much of the coast from Nigeria to Cameroon was 
relatively ignored by the Europeans, partly because of its 
difficult conditions (Tonkin 1971:143). However, the 
growing demand for slaves in the eighteenth century drove 
slavers further eastward to the lagoons of what is today 
Lagos and the creeks of the "Rivers" at the mouth of the 
Niger. Here the Europeans could anchor their vessels for 
the brief period needed to load the slaves that the African 
traders kept ready for them (Osae et al. 1973:180). By the 
end of the eighteenth century Bonny and Calabar on the Bight 
of Biafra had become two of the most important trading 

The British made the slave trade illegal in 1807, and 
their navy patrolled this area to enforce the new law; 
however, trade in palm oil and other goods remained 
important. Protestant missionaries from England and Sierra 
Leone began coming to this area in the 184 0s and were 
welcomed as teachers of arithmetic and English (Tonkin 
1971:144). Britain annexed Lagos in 1861, the Rivers in 
1885, and then all of Nigeria in 1900. Although Nigeria 


retained English as its official language after independence 

in 1960 and a knowledge of the standard variety is essential 

for higher education and socioeconomic advancement, Pidgin 

still plays a major role in interethnic communication in 

linguistically heterogeneous urban centers, particularly in 

the south (Mafeni 1971:99). 

Nigerian Pidgin English is a lingua franca for many, 

and thus a true pidgin in Hall's sense; it is also a mother 

tongue for a number of families in certain areas and 

communities, and as such might in these cases be defined as 

a Creole language (ibid. 95). Mafeni describes how the 

Creole English has emerged in Nigeria like this: 

Inter-tribal and international marriages have become 
increasingly common in urban society. In many such 
cases husband and wife may not share a common 
indigenous language, and as a result will often use 
Pidgin as their chief meduim of communication in the 
home; or, of course, Pidgin alongside standard English. 
Children brought up in such homes naturally speak 
Pidgin, sometimes alongside standard English, as their 
first language, although they may also speak the native 
language (s) of either or both parents. The children 
therefore learn to operate several linguistic systems, 
of which Pidgin is one of them; and in many cases it 
may be the primary and predominant system. However, 
even where both parents speak the same native language, 
many urban and partially detribalized children learn 
Pidgin very early although it is not the language of 
the home. Often several families live in the same 
compound, and if they differ in linguistic background 
Pidgin serves as a convenient lingua franca. The 
children in such compounds and neighborhoods find 
Pidgin an efficient means of communication among 
themselves, and may also use it at home even though 
their parents may not approve. (ibid. 98) 

According to Mafeni, some Nigerians have two types of 

pidgin. The majority of servants employed by European 


families use two quite different varieties of pidgin; one, a 
minimal variety, which they use to their employers — and 
which is the only kind of pidgin which most Europeans come 
across — and a fuller variety, pidgin proper, which they use 
elsewhere. Many Nigerians, although use pidgin as a 
register in certain, especially familiar, contexts, are 
nevertheless ashamed to be associated with the language in 
public. This is probably a result of the influence of 
parents and school authorities, who have often discouraged 
its use because they consider it a debased form of English 
and not a language in its own right (ibid. 99). 

Nigerians use their pidgin in variety of ways, in spite 
of the traditional attitudes of disapproval towards the 
language. Many Nigerian novelists, playwrights, advertising 
agents, trade unionists and even politicians have realized 
and are exploiting the great potentialities of the language 
as a medium of mass communication. The various broadcasting 
corporations in Nigeria have done much to popularize pidgin 
by allowing its use in advertisement; the NBC radioserial 
"Save Journey" has been running with great success for a 
number of years; Achebe and other writers have used pidgin 
in their novels and poems (ibid. 100). 
Sierra Leone 

Holm (1989:413) states that it seems both pidgin and 
Creole English were spoken in the area around Freetown 
before it was settled from Britain and the New World in the 


late eighteenth century. The English might have been 
influenced by the Portuguese that was spoken by the traders 
and their Afro-European descendants in this area. The 
Portuguese reached the peninsula on which Freetown now 
stands around 1460 and named the area Serra Lyoa or "Lion 
Mountain" (ibid. 413). From the late fifteenth century 
onward European ships stopped regularly in this area to 
trade manufactured goods for slaves and ivory. The English 
established a fort on an island near the Sierra Leone 
peninsula in 1663; a number of English privateers settled on 
the offshore islands from this period onwards and they and 
their Afro-European descendants helped establish various 
forms of restructured English there. "These mulattoes 
merged with the Afro-Portuguese to form a group of about 
12,000 by the end of the eighteenth century . . . [that] may 
have formed the ' indigenous * nucleus of the Creole-type 
society that was to emerge in the nineteenth century" (Jones 
1983:16) . 

Slavery was abolished in Britain in 1772, and the 
American revolution began in 1776. At this time the British 
offered freedom to any American-owned slave who would escape 
to fight for the crown, and thousands of slaves did this 
(Hancock 1971a: 12). Some of these soldiers ended up in 
England where they and others called the Black Poor were 
felt to be a social problem. Some of these were settled in 
Africa. In 1787 some four hundred persons (330 blacks and 

70 white prostitutes) arrived in Sierra Leone and founded 
what was to become Freetown. However, many died of disease 
and in 1790 the Temne destroyed most of what remained of the 
colony. The settlement was revived the following year by 
the Sierra Leone Company, which was sponsored by British 
opponents of the slave trade. In 1792 some 1,100 former 
American slaves who had won their freedom by fighting for 
the British were brought from Nova Scotia, where they had 
been temporarily resettled after the British lost their more 
southernly American colonies in 1783. In 1800 these 
"Settlers" were joined by some 550 Jamaican Maroons. 
Because of a disturbance in 1796 the British government had 
the entire population of a settlement deported from Jamaica 
to Nova Scotia; however, so many died from the cold that the 
survivors were resettled in Sierra Leone (Le Page and DeCamp 
1960:100) . 

In 1807 Britain outlawed the slave trade and in 1808 
took over Freetown from the financially troubled company to 
use it as a naval base for anti-slavery patrols to intercept 
non-British slave ships. Between 1808 and 1864 tens of 
thousands of captives on intercepted slave ships were 
settled at Freetown, bringing a great many languages with 
them from all over West Africa and the Congo-Angola area 
(Koelle 1854) . Krio became the lingua franca among these 
recaptives and the first language of their descendants, who 
joined those of the Settlers and Maroons as members of the 


Creole society. Singler suggests that "the most important 

phase of the development of Krio was the creolization (or 

re-creolization) that occurred with the wave upon wave of 

Liberated Africans who washed ashore in Freetown (Singler 

1984:35). In summary "the Sierra Leone settlement consisted 

of the following groups of people: The Black Poor, the 

Maroons and Nova Scotians, and the West African recaptives. 

The last were by far the most numerous, their arrival being 

spread over a number of years" (Jones 1971:67). Jones 

describes the language Krio as: 

Krio is an English-based lingua franca used throughout 
Sierra Leone as an inter-tribal language of trade and 
social communication. It is the mother tongue of the 
descendants of freed men who settled in the Sierra 
Leone peninsula between 1787 and the early years of the 
nineteenth century. It is a second language for other 
residents in this same area whose mother tongue is one 
of the Sierra Leone languages. It has also spread 
throughout the country principally in the more urban 
areas as an additional language. (ibid. 66) 

In describing the usage of Krio in Sierra Leone today, 
Jones says it is recognized as a useful language of inter- 
tribal communication and as such a medium of news 
dissemination. He says the official news bulletin put out 
daily over the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service by the 
Ministry of Information, as well as other important 
government statements, are broadcast in Krio as well as 
English, Mende and Temne. (The other languages of the 
country usually have weekly broadcast in them.) Krio is 
also used widely in public speeches all over the country as 
well as at inter-tribal religious services. In talking 


about the negative response that the usage of Krio receives 

Jones has this to say: 

It is not however encouraged in the schools because of 
its supposedly harmful effects on the learning of 
English, the language of education, and is not widely 
used in its written form, although there have been 
sporadic bursts of good writing in it. Its register 
Krio remains largely intimate and oral. It is used as 
the normal means of communication in Creole homes but 
even among educated Creoles outside their homes it 
tends to be used only as means of intimate 
conversation. Educated Creoles on first meeting other 
educated Creoles tend to use English, this being 
thought the more polite language. Coversation mellows 
into Krio as acguaintanceship grows, although it is apt 
to fade into English as topics veer into the more 
technical fields. The appropriate occasions for Krio 
in Sierra Leone society can involve delicate nuances of 
etiquette . ( ibid . 68 ) 

Some varieties of Krio are spoken in some parts of West 

Africa. Gambian Krio (locally called Aku or Patois) is 

spoken as a home language by some 3,500 Creoles in Banjul 

and by others as a second language (Hancock 1969a:8). A 

more conservative form of Krio is preserved in several small 

enclaves in French-speaking Guinea and Senegal, where Sierra 

Leone traders formed their own Krio-speaking communities 

(ibid. 9). The same thing happened in such English-speaking 

countries as Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon (Reinecke et al. 

1975:365). A form of Krio called Fernandino or Porto 3 

(Lipski 1992:1) is spoken on Bioko (formerly called Fernando 

Po) . This island, which lies just off the coast of Cameroon 

in the Gulf of Guinea, forms part of Equitoral Guinea (Holm 

1989:418) . 



Holm (1989:421-426) writes about the Liberian 
Creole/Pidgin English in terms of how the speakers of the 
language came in contact with English speakers. The 
Portuguese reached what is now Liberia in 1416; because of 
the trade in pepper that developed in this area, it came to 
be known as the Grain Coast. As the British took over more 
of the slave trade in the eighteenth century, their ships 
began stopping along the Grain Coast to take on crews to man 
their ships and act as middlemen with other Africans as they 
proceeded down the coast to trade for slaves. Their ships 
would stop again on their return journey to drop off the 
sailors (Singler 1981:4). These were called Krumen (earlier 
Krooboys) from the ethnic name of Kru (Klao) . They enjoyed 
a favored position with the white traders and were largely 
excempt from slave raiding (Reinecke 1937:617). Holm in 
quoting Reinecke suggests that it seems likely that the 
Krumen had been using pidgin English for at least a century 
when an observer noted in 1856 that "Three-fourths of the 
male population of the Kru country speak imperfect, but 
intelligible English" (ibid. 618). 

Holm quotes Tonkin, Jones, and Reinecke to describe how 
the Krumen have contributed towards the spread of Pidgin 
English in West Africa. The Krumen "must have been 
important diffusers and standardizers of Pidgin English, for 
their employers included slavers, traders, explorers, and 

English Navy . . . African pidgin speakers such as these 
became the main agents of language transmission" (Tonkin 
1971:143). Jones suggests that the Kru probably helped 
spread Krio features in West African Pidgin English since 
they were present in Freetown by the 1790s and by 182 their 
numbers there matched those of the settlers and maroons 
(Jones 1971:67). By the end of the nineteenth century the 
Krumen had brought a knowledge of Pidgin English as far 
south as the Congo River (Reinecke 1937:619). At this time 
the largest group of Krumen worked in Nigeria, but by the 
end of the First World War the Gold Coast (modern Ghana) had 
become their primary venue (Holm 1989:422). 

It could be seen from the above paragraphs that Pidgin 
English was spoken along the Liberian coast before the 
arrival of the Afro-American settlers. One of the officials 
of these settlers noted in the 1820s that "every head man 
around us, and hundreds of their people speak, and can be 
made to understand our language without an interpreter" 
(quoted by Singler 1984:39). 

The Americans wanted to "get rid of the masses of 
blacks that loitered about the city streets, making them 
unsafe, but there was also the humane wish to give them a 
homeland of their own" (quoted by Holm 1989:423). This was 
after the slave trade. In 1821 the American Colonization 
Society bought land at the present site of Monrovia and in 
1822 the first group of freed American slaves arrived. 


During the first 25 years of immigration, 70% of the 
American blacks came from Virginia, Maryland, and North 
Carolina. Later immigrants came more often from Georgia and 
South Carolina, the origin of over 60% of those arriving 
immediately after the American Civil War (Singler 1989) . 
These "Settlers" were joined by liberated Africans, 
delivered by United States Navy. Over the period of twenty 
years some 5780 liberated Africans were settled in Liberia 
(ibid.). Some 15,000 American freedmen eventually 
immigrated Liberia, as well as some 350 settlers from 
Barbados, who arrived in 1865 (Singler 1981:6). These 
settlers were outnumbered by the indigenous Africans. 

There happens to be some kind of classifications in the 
language spoken by the Liberians because of the different 
groups of people who inhabit the area. The speech that the 
Settlers brought from America was the creolized ancestor of 
modern Black English vernacular (Holm 1989:424). For 
broadcasting and other official purposes there exists a 
standard variety of Liberian English which differs little 
from standard English elsewhere in West Africa except in its 
phonology, which is more American than British (Hancock 
1970). Singler (1984:69-71) postulates three distinct 
basilects. The first is that of Settler English (called 
Merico by Hancock) . This has features that are largely 
confined to American Black English and the North American 


The second language varieties of Liber ian English have 

two different basilects (both quite distinct from the 

Settler basilect) that have separate historical origins: (1) 

the variety that developed from Kru Pidgin, spoken along the 

coast; and (2) the variety that developed from a Mande- 

influenced pidgin, spoken in the interior. Interior Pidgin 

developed among the military and on plantations, where the 

Mande dominated. Both Interior and Coastal Pidgin reflect 

the phonology of the speaker's first language. Both of them 

are typical of speakers with little or no Western schooling. 

The following paragraph from Holm summarizes the varieties 

of English in Liberia. 

Liber ian English encompasses several restructured 
varieties. There is a Creole spoken as a home language 
by the descendants of settlers from the United States 

(3% of the total population of 2,180,000 in 1984) who 
live largely in and around the capital, Monrovia 

(306,000 inhabitants). There are also second-language 
varieties of this speech used as a lingua franca 
throughout the rest of the country. One of these, Kru 
Pidgin English, is more similar than the other 
varieties to West African English because of its 
distinct historical origins. All of the varieties in 
Liberia have influenced one another and appear to form 
a continuum rather than discrete entities. (Holm 


Cameroonian Pidgin English grew out of the eighteenth- 
century Pidgin English used around Calabar on the Bight of 
Biafra (Hancock 1969a: 17). After the British occupied 
Fernando Po in 1827 to stop the trading of slaves in this 
area, merchants and missionaries from Britain and Sierra 
Leone began coming to what is now coastal Cameroon (Holm 


1989:430). Between 1845 and 1887, 36% of these missionaries 
were Creole speakers: 2 2 spoke Krio (18 from Sierra Leone 
and four from Fernando Po) and six spoke Jamaican English 
(Todd 1984:94). In 1858 the largely Krio-speaking Baptist 
mission on Fernando Po was expelled by the Spanish and 
reestablished at what is now Limbe on the Cameroonian coast. 
The Pidgin spoken in this area today is more similar to Krio 
than are other Cameroonian varieties (ibid. 97). The British 
set up trading posts near the coastal town of Douala. When 
German firms joined the British in the 1860s and in 1884 
Cameroon was officially annexed by Germany as a colony, 
restructured English was already so well established that 
the Germans had to use that instead of their own language in 
dealing with the local people. 

The German colonization of Cameroon led to the spread 
of the Pidgin English into the interior, because the Germans 
set up plantations that drew laborers from the interior 
grasslands. They returned to their villages with their 
knowledge of Pidgin. Other laborers were also brought from 
Liberia, Togo, Dahomey (modern Benin), and Nigeria. Pidgin 
English was the lingua franca on the plantations as well as 
in the colonial German army (ibid. 94). 

The Germans were driven out of Cameroon by the Allies 
in 1916, and in 1919 the country was divided into mandates 
under the British (west part near Nigeria) and the French 
(east part) . English (West) and French (East) became the 

official languages of Cameroon. This led to an increasing 
influence of English — and Nigerian Pidgin — in the west, and 
the further isolation of the English-based Pidgin in the 
east, where it began to draw on French when further lexicon 
was needed (Holm 1989:431). The eastern regions maintain 
more Krio features while the western regions are closer to 
Nigerian Pidgin. 

Cameroon Pidgin English is presently widely used along 
the East Cameroon Coast, especially in the Douala area. 
Though it has little official recognition, it is still an 
important medium of communication for Cameroon's political, 
social, religious, and economic life (Barbag-Stoll 1983:38). 


We have discussed how the Portuguese have influenced 
the linguistics of West Africa, especially in pidgin. They 
traded with the people of the area, and through the orders 
of Prince Henry the Navigator some West Africans were taken 
to Portugal to learn Portuguese. This was the beginning of 
pidgin Portuguese which was called the reconnaissance 
language. These Africans were returned to West Africa to 
serve as interpreters for the Portuguese traders. The major 
transfer of the reconnaissance language to West Africa was 
done by the Portuguese traders and settlers who settled in 
the area among the Africans, especially the women. 

The Dutch followed the Portuguese as the next European 
traders with the people of West Africa. They did not make 

much impact on the linguistics of the area because they did 
not sttle among the people they traded with. The British 
who followed the Dutch had more impact on the linguistics of 
West Africa because they were in closer contacts with the 
people of this area than their two predecesors. They traded 
with the people in products and slaves, settled among them, 
and therefore had close contacts with their culture. The 
major linguistic legacies of the British contact with West 
Africa are standard English and pidgin English which is 
spoken in the Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria, 
and Cameroon. 


1. The fort of Sao Jorge de Mina is now known as the Elmina 

2. Semantic extension has contributed to the phonology of 
the Akan word kube which was derived from the Portuguese 
word "coco" which is pronounced /ko'ku/. In Akan, the root 
/be/ means "palm tree", and as the coconut tree looks like 
the palm tree, the derivation began with the addition of 
/be/ to the Portuguese /ko'ku/ to become /kokube/. The 
first syllable was deleted, hence /kube/. Akan vowel 
harmony system changed the final /e/ to /e/. The derivation 
would be the following: 

/ko • ku/ Portuguese 

kokube semantic extension 

kube first syllable deletion 

kube vowel harmony 


3. Through a personal communication, John Lipski who has 
done some studies on the pidgins on Fernando Po, told me 
that the pidgin English on the island is no longer known as 
Fernandino or Porto. The only current terms are Pichinglis 
or the shortened Pichi. The term Fernandino is applied to 
the descendents of the original Sierra Leoneans who settled 



Research Background 

Considerable misinformation has been circulated about 

Ghanaian Pidgin English. Some Ghanaians attribute the 

worsening of standard English to the emergence of pidgin 

English. An evidence of this can be read from Suzanne 

Romaine's 1988 publication. 

As recently as 1986 the Times Higher Education 
Supplement (17 Jan. 1986) carried a report of a 
newspaper in Ghana complaining about the use of Pidgin 
English on Ghanaian campuses and recommending that 
stern measures be taken against it. The report notes 
that in no other case do the future leaders of the 
country talk a 'mixture in which all the tenses are 
thrown to the wind, and words are picked from far and 
wide, making no sense to the listener. ' (Romaine 

But pidgin English is serving a very important purpose which 

many critics overlook. It serves as an important medium of 

communication. It is spoken on a wide scale in educational 

institutions, work places, airports, seaports, drinking 

places, markets, on the radio, in popular songs, on 

political platforms, and on many occasions. It is spoken by 

both literate and illiterate people. Most importantly, 

pidgin English is becoming the lingua franca in English 

speaking West Africa countries. 



There has not been any formal attempt to study the 
pidgin English situation in Ghana. Sey (1973:3) observed 
that the ideal conditions for a pidgin did not exist in 
Ghana in 1973, but in 1984 it was observed that pidgin 
English was, and continues, to be spoken in Ghana. 

The above observations, among other things, prompted us 
to consider doing a research on Ghanaian Pidgin English in 

Research period Over a period of nine months, data 
were collected on Ghanaian Pidgin English (G.P.E.), from 
April, 1984 to January, 1985. This period was used in 
distributing and collecting guestionnaires, tape-recording 
interviews, conversations, and songs in Ghanaian Pidgin 
English. The period was also used in collecting magazines 
and newspapers in which Ghanaian Pidgin English have been 
used. I was the major researcher during this period. Since 
I did not have any funding for the research, I could not 
afford a research assistant. I relied on the help of 
friends for both the recordings and the distribution as well 
as collection of the guestionnaires. 

Questionnaire . Four hundred guestionnaires were 
distributed in Accra in the Greater Accra Region, Aburi and 
Abetifi in the Eastern Region, Winneba in the Central 
Region, Kumasi in the Ashanti Region, Sunyani in the Brong 
Ahafo Region, and Ho in the Volta Region. Even though all 


the regions of Ghana were not surveyed the informants who 

were of different ages, sexes, educational backgrounds, 

occupational backgrounds, and social classes consist of 

people from all the regions of the country. Three hundred 

and four responses were received. Table 3.1 and 3.2 show 

the sex and age distributions respectively. Refer to 

Appendix A for a copy of the guest ionnaire. Figures 3.1 and 

3.2 are further illustrations on the age and sex 

distribution of the population surveyed. 

Table 3.1 
Sex Distribution of Informants 





No Response 


Sex Distribution of Informants 

FIQ. 3.1 








Figure 3.1. Sex Distribution of Informants 


Table 3.2 
Age Distribution of Informants (Years) 

15-25 26-30 31-40 41-50 
167 84 40 7 
54.9% 27.6% 13.2% 2.3% 

50+ No Response Total 
3 3 304 

1.0% 1.0% 100% 

The ages in table 3.2 begin at 15 because we decided 
that informants below that age might not be properly able to 
complete the guest ionnaire. Many people over 40 did not 
return the questionnaires because they did not want to be 
associated with pidgin, thus pointing to the strong 
attitudes about pidgin in Ghana. 

Age Distribution of Informants 














rr r n rr , rB 

HQ. 3.2 

15-25 26-30 31-40 41-60 50* NO RESP. 

Figure 3.2. Age Distribution of Informants 

Materials used . Tape recorders were used in interviews 
with informants who ranged from school children to a 
secretary of state. Some of the recording was done during 

the 1984 New Year School which was held at the University of 
Ghana, Legon. This is a one-week school attended by people 
from all walks of life and from all parts of Ghana. It is 
held between Christmas and New Year's Day. The participants 
discuss national issues like Aging, Education, Culture, and 
The Environment. This was a good opportunity to gather 
views from people across the whole spectrum of life in 

Both spontaneous and organized recordings of pidgin 
were made, including songs sung in pidgin. We interviewed 
some of the singers as well as writers of Ghanaian Pidgin 
English. Magazines and newspapers in which GPE has been 
featured, especially in the areas of comics and cartoons 
were also collected. 

The data in this dissertation were obtained from the 
questionnaires and some responses from interviewees have 
also been included. The discussions on the phonology, 
morphology, syntax, semantics, the lexicon and the 
sociolinguistics of the language as well as the data in the 
appendises were taken from some of the organized and 
spontaneous conversations of the informants. Some were also 
taken from the magazines. 

History of Ghanaian Pidgin English 
Colonial Settlement 

The Portuguese explored the coast of West Africa around 
the middle of the fifteenth century, establishing outposts 

in what are today Guinea-Bissau, Ghana and Nigeria before 
the end of the century. But their trade was taken over 
first by the Dutch and then the English (Holm 1989:410). 
The English took over part of the slave trade by 
establishing forts in West Africa. "The first was built in 
1631 at Cormantine in what is today called Ghana" (Spencer 
1971:8). In 1672 the British seized from the Dutch a number 
of forts for trading for slaves on the Gold Coast and Slave 
Coast — modern Ghana, Togo, and Benin (Fage et al. 1959 
guoted by Holm 1989:426). Restructured English was brought 
to this area from the late eighteenth century onwards by 
Krumen and Sierra Leonean Krio speakers. 

In 1821 the British forts on the Gold Coast were taken 
from the Africa Company and placed under the crown in the 
form of the Governor of Sierra Leone. After the British 
defeated the Ashanti in the Sagrenti War of 1874, the Gold 
Coast and Lagos became the Gold Coast Colony and were 
administratively separated from Sierra Leone. "By the end 
of the century new medicines made life in the tropics safer 
for Europeans, and British-born administrators, teachers, 
etc. began taking over the positions previously filled by 
Sierra Leoneans" (Trutenau 1975:21-23 quoted by Holm 
1989:427). The low-level jobs were the only ones that were 
left for the Africans. The demand was largely for unskilled 
labor, which were first filled by Ghanaians and then by 
Krumen from Liberia. 


English has been the official language of Ghana since 
Britain colonized the Gold Coast (now Ghana) by the bond of 
1844. This was the bond which made the Gold Coast a British 
colony. English was imposed as the language of 
administration by the British; their immediate practical aim 
being to bring together the separate political units which 
they had won either by conquest or treaty (Boadi 1971:49) . 
After Ghana had its independence from the British rule in 
1957, English is still a cohesive force internally. The 
adoption of one of the 45 local languages as the lingua 
franca has not been easy and is not envisaged. This has 
made the English language the most obvious choice for both 
internal and external uses (ibid. 50) . We may distinguish 
between educated and uneducated varieties of English in 
Ghana even though there is a graded continuum between them. 
The least educated one is the least internationally 
acceptable and the most educated one is the most widely 
understood in the English-speaking world (ibid. 51). Pidgin 
English is one of the varieties that is associated with the 
uneducated varieties of English in Ghana. 

Ghanaian Pidgin English dates from the time the British 
set foot on the coast of the Gold Coast. It was limited to 
a relatively small and identifiable section of the 
population, mostly illiterate workers of various categories, 
almost exclusively from the northern sector of the colonial 
territory. These workers were mainly those who served in 

various capacities directly under mostly English but also 
some Ghanaian and other African "masters" who needed some 
means of communication with them. 

Pidgin gradually arose through simplifications of the 
structure of standard English and adaptation to native 
languages among these categories of workers. They tried to 
reproduce what they heard and retained of the fast speech of 
the English masters, or the Ghanaian and Asian masters. 

The categories of people who learned this kind of 
simplified English were: 

Police corporals . They were employed as guards at the 
courts, offices, parliament, "people's" houses, and other 
government places. "People" in this sense means the 
expatriates and high-ranking government officials who 
gualified to employ a guard. 

Watchmen . These were employed in government departments 
and private houses. They were security officers who watched 
the houses and office buildings of the government as well as 
those of some private individuals. 

Laborers. They were employed in government departments 
-usually daily rated — like Public Works Department, Water 
Works, Electricity, and Housing. 

Domesti c staff . The domestic staff, who in those days 
were invariably male, were cooks, steward boys, and garden 
boys. They were usually called "small boys" by their 
employers. They in turn called their employers "masters", 

hence the popular expression in Ghana: "Yes sa, masa." 
("Yes sir, master.") It was usual for a visitor to ask: 
"Masa dey?" (Is your master present?) , and the reply: "I 
dey" (He's present) or "I no dey." (He isn't present). 

The reason for the employment of these categories of 
workers from the northern part of Ghana was to promote the 
undivided loyalties to their employer, since they did not 
have their families with them in the south; even in the 
north, they could be far away from their own villages. 

In the northern part of Ghana, the people were late in 
receiving formal education. That is why the employees from 
the North were some of the first speakers of Ghanaian Pidgin 
Second World War 

In our survey, sixteen informants, or 5% Of the 
respondents, mentioned the second World War as one of the 
events that have contributed to the emergence of pidgin 
English in Ghana. This is especially true of the older 
respondents because of their association with the war. 

Soldiers of the Gold Coast Regiment fought alongside 
their British counterparts during the Second World War 
(1939-1945) . They served as porters for the British 
soldiers. These porters were illiterates; hence in their 
efforts to communicate with their British counterparts 
Pidgin English evolved. These soldiers returned to Ghana 
with the Pidgin English. Some of them joined the Armed 


Forces and others retired to live among the civilian 

A retired soldier informed us that formerly every 
soldier was made to learn pidgin English since it is the 
language used to drill soldiers on parade and training 
grounds. A police officer at a training depot also told us 
that police recruits are made to learn pidgin for the same 
reason. The trainers are illiterates and the English they 
know is the pidgin type. This training started with those 
who went to the Second World War. 

There is a story in Ghana about a laborer who was 
brought before the colonial courts in the early months of 
the Second World War on a charge of sedition. The charge 
was that he had said Hitler would win the war, impressed by 
the astounding blitz of the advancing German forces. In his 
defence he made the following statement in Pidgin English: 
"If I talk say Hitler go win the war, na my mouth be gun" 
(Eyi-Acquah 1985)? (i f a t^K sey Hitler go win de W3, na 
ma i3f bi g^n?") ("If I say that Hitler will win the war, is 
my mouth a gun?") 
News Media 

Pidgin English has been used in the Ghanaian news media 
since the 1950s. There was a column in the "Evening News" - 
an evening newspaper — which was strictly reserved for the 
use of pidgin English. It was used to present vernacular 


There was a radio program done in pidgin English in the 
1950s called "Isa Abongo" by the late Leo Riby-Williams. In 
the 1960s there was a television comedy series also done in 
pidgin English. These were comedy programs meant to 
entertain the rank and file - mostly illiterate workers who 
would be expected to understand or speak pidgin English and 
so appreciate such programs in pidgin. 

Contrary to the assumption that the majority of 
illiterate workers from all over the country spoke and 
understood pidgin English and so would welcome such 
programs, it turned out that pidgin English was limited to 
only a small section of the population and that the rest 
would better enjoy programs in one of the local Ghanaian 
languages. The radio and television programs were therefore 
withdrawn after a short run; and eventually, through 
audience research survey, programs like Variety Show Case in 
Akan, Ga, Ewe, and other Ghanaian languages were 
substituted. These were and are much enjoyed by all 
sections of the population. 

Sey (1973:3) says that with many educated people in the 
large towns it was not necessary for the illiterate people 
to deal directly with the English speakers for bilingual 
educated Ghanaians were always at hand to act as 
interpreters and "letter-writers" for the uneducated ones. 
This was one of the reasons why Ghanaian Pidgin English 
could not spread. 


Current Emergence of Ghanaian Pidgin English: Factors 

Within the past ten or twenty years, that is, from the 

early 1970s, it has been noticed by the informants in this 

survey that more Ghanaians are speaking pidgin English than 

in the 1950s and 1960s. This can be seen from table 3.3 and 

figure 3.3. 

Table 3.3 
Number of Years Speakers Have Spoken Ghanaian Pidgin English 

Years: -1 1-5 6-10 
Speakers: 44 23 90 70 
% : 14.5 7.6 29.6 23.0 

11-15 16-20 
22 8 
7.2 2.6 

21+ No Res 
0.0 15.5 

Years of Speaking G.P.E. 











1 - 



RIG. 3.3 

•1 1-5 6-10 11-15 16-20 21* MORES. 

Figure 3.3. Years of Speaking G.P.E. 

It should be noted that 23% of the speakers have spoken 
pidgin English for the past ten years, and that 29.6% have 
spoken it for the past five years. This shows an increase of 


6.6%. Just 7.6% had spoken it for less than a year during 

the research period. These ratios are due to the current 

attitude of people toward the GPE. 

Table 3 . 4 and figure 3 . 4 offer further statistical data 

and an illustration to show the consensus that Pidgin 

English is spreading fast in Ghana. 

Table 3.4 
Rate of The Spread of Ghanaian Pidgin English 

Slowly Fast Dying Out Not Found 






No Response 







- 160 




PIG. 3.4 

Rate of the Spread of G.P.E. 






Figure 3.4. Rate of the Spread of G.P.E. 

Whereas 84.9% of the respondents said that the Ghanaian 
Pidgin English is spreading fast, only 6.9% said that it is 
spreading slowly. 

Contact with Other West African States 

The main reason given for the fast spreading of the 
Ghanaian Pidgin English within the past twenty years is the 
recent increase of contacts between Ghanaians and other West 
African states where pidgin English is spoken on a wider 
scale. These countries are Liberia, Sierra Leone, and 
especially Nigeria. This increase is evidenced by the 
responses of informants to the question: "Which events have 
contributed toward the introduction and spread of pidgin 
English?" Out of 304 questionnaires, 236 informants 
responded to that question, 77.6% of the total survey. Out 
of the 236 respondents 127, that is, 53.8% mentioned 
immigration of Ghanaians to other West African countries. 
The Nigerian Influence 

Of the 127 respondents who mentioned immigration as a 
factor to the current spread of Ghanaian Pidgin English, 
105, that is 82.6%, said that Nigeria has been responsible. 
Pidgin English is spoken everywhere in Nigeria. The writer 
spent three months in Lagos in 1981, and found that 
Nigerians speak standard English only on rare occasions in 
private conversations. Otherwise, they speak either one of 
the Nigerian languages or pidgin English. 

The oil boom brought economic improvement to Nigeria in 
the early 1970s, and people from many countries, including 
Ghana, immigrated there. Both skilled and unskilled 
Ghanaian workers went to Nigeria to look for green pastures. 


They spent their holidays in Ghana, and often took whatever 

they acquired to Ghana. One important thing they brought 

back to Ghana was pidgin English. 

In the early 1980s, many Ghanaians and other foreign 

nationals were expelled from Nigeria. These returnees 

raised the use of pidgin English in Ghana to its ascendancy. 

The writer taught a boy in elementary school, middle form 

four, in 1972. The boy spoke no pidgin English at that 

time. After sojourning in Nigeria, he formed a guitar band, 

and in 1981 sang his first song in pidgin English, titled: 

"To Be a Man Na Wah" (It is a struggle to be born a man) . 

His second album, which caught the attention of many 

Ghanaian music fans was "Jealousy." The following is part 

of the song: 

JEALOUSY (a song) 

if a du ma tin If I do my thing 

mek yu no jel^s Don't be jealous 

if a du ma tin If I do my thing 

mek yu no jel^s Don't be jealous 

jel^si go she(m) The jealous one will be ashamed 

wayo go she(m) The trickster will be ashamed. 

jelosi go she(m) The jealous one will be ashamed 

wayo tu go se(m) The trickster too will be ashamed 

There was a Ghanaian woman who never spoke pidgin 

English when she was in Ghana. After staying in Lagos for 

one year, she wrote a letter which contained both pidgin 

English and standard English, using the pidgin English as a 

joke. The sample below is an unedited part of a letter she 

wrote to the writer. The Yoruba words are underlined. 


Well oga I dey happy I received your letter, but 

as you dey tell me to come home, wet in I fit take 

to enter motor? I dey hear your advice goun and I dey 
trowey thanks for you for your advice. 

Well, big man, I was happy when I received your letter, 
but as you are telling me to come home, what thing 
(money for transportation) can I use to enter a 
vehicle? I have heard your advice very well and I give 
you thanks for your advice. 

One of our interviewees, a nurse, gave this explanation 
for the current spread of Ghanaian Pidgin English: "Another 
reason for this pidgin English is because of these people 
going down to Nigeria. When they come, you see, I know a 
teacher, my first husband, you know, he was to leave 
Saturday for Nigeria. And this man, a teacher, you know, 
when he came he started speaking that sort of English." 

A thirteen year old primary school boy said he learned 
his pidgin English from a ten year old Nigerian boy whom he 
had known for two years. They live close to each other, and 
the Nigerian boy had been in Ghana for only two years. 

A primary school female teacher said she started 
speaking pidgin English after she had been to Nigeria. When 
asked why she thinks some Ghanaians speak Pidgin English, 
she answered: "Well, we were speaking it formerly, but I 
think to the greater extent it was during the time the 
Ghanaians were asked to come from Nigeria. That was the 
peak of the pidgin English in the country." 

In a pidgin English conversation in Kumasi, a woman 
claimed she could speak pidgin English because she had a 
Nigeria friend. 


Man: So yu, haw kam wey yu fit spik pijm English 

lak dat? 

(So you, how come that you can speak pidgin 

English like that?) 
Woman: A get s^m Nigerian fren. 

(I have a Nigerian friend.) 

Other Factors 

One important factor which has contributed to the 
spread of GPE is illiteracy. In 1980, only 30% of the adult 
population in Ghana were literate and 69% of school age 
persons were literate. Yet only 20 out of the 236, that is 
8.5%, respondents attributed the spread of GPE to illiteracy 
and lack of formal education. Nonetheless, this is an 
important factor, since a small country like Ghana (Area: 
238,537 sq. km.) with nearly 14 million people has 44 
languages (refer to Appendix B for the Ghana Language Map) 
and none of them is the national language. This fact 
compels people to use English as the means of communication 
in inter-language conversation. The illiterate ones, 
therefore, have to recourse to pidgin English. 

Military regimes in Ghana have also contributed to the 
spread of pidgin English. Ghana has had four long-term 
military regimes in the country's history. The 12 
respondents (5% of the group) who mentioned this factor said 
that the military regimes have brought the soldiers into the 
streets and involved them in the day-to-day life of the 
civilian population. The civilians have therefore been 
imitating the pidgin English which most of the soldiers 


Other factors for the spread of GPE are trade, boarding 
schools, urbanization, prisoners, and the increasing number 
of magazines which feature pidgin English, and the 
increasing interest in reading such magazines. 


After being prompted by the emergence of pidgin English 
in Ghana in 1984 and having realized that no formal detailed 
linguistic work had been done on it, we started a research 
on the language. Within nine months, we sent out 400 
guest ionnaires and received 3 04 of them responded to. We 
used audio tape recorders to interview informants; we 
recorded songs, and collected magazines and books which 
contain Ghanaian Pidgin English (GPE) . 

From our informants and books, we learned more about 
the history of GPE and the reasons for its current 
emergence. GPE dates back from 1631 when the British built 
their first fort at Cormantine in the then Gold Coast and 
traded with the people. The second world war which saw 
members of the Gold Coast Regiment fighting alongside the 
British soldiers also contributed to the spread of GPE. The 
soldiers who were mostlly illiterates returned from the war 
with the language. It became the language of the military 
as well as the police service. The increase of contacts 
between Ghanaians and the people of some West African states 
where pidgin English is spoken is a major factor in the 
current emergence and the fast spread of GPE. Other factors 

are illiteracy, military regimes in Ghana, urbanization, 
boarding schools, increase in the number of magazines that 
feature GPE, and increase in its use for fun. 


Ghanaian Pidgin English (GPE) can be classified into 
two types: educated pidgin and uneducated pidgin. The 
uneducated pidgin is also called "houseboy pidgin" or 
"motorpark pidgin". It is called uneducated pidgin because 
its speakers have not had any formal literacy education. 
Some of these uneducated people, who are mostly men, work in 
the houses of educated English speakers where they are 
called "houseboys". It is the type of pidgin that they 
speak that has been named after them. It is this same type 
of pidgin that is spoken at the car and lorry stations where 
passengers who do not own vehicles go for transportation to 
travel with, hence the pidgin spoken there is called 
motorpark pidgin. 

The other pidgin type is called educated pidgin because 
its speakers have had formal literacy education. Some 
people call it "intellectual pidgin" because of the same 
reason. This is the pidgin that is spoken by young people, 
especially the students of Ghana. Intellectual pidgin has 
been influenced by standard English. Over a range of 
continuum of the types of English spoken in Ghana, 


intellectual pidgin will be the closest to standard English 
whereas houseboy pidgin will be the farthest from standard 

We should note that nowadays there is not too much 
difference between houseboy pidgin and intellectual pidgin 
because most of the GPE speakers have had some form of 
formal education because of the compulsory free education 
policy of the late 1950' s. The GPE that is being spoken 
these days is not as close to the houseboy pidgin that was 
spoken in the early 1950' s. It is a little bit inclined 
towards intellectual pidgin but not close to standard 
English. This has made some people think that Ghana does 
not have a pidgin that is original, but like any other 
language, GPE has been there for many years; it has just 
changed. The type of GPE that will be analyzed in this 
chapter is a blend of houseboy pidgin and intellectual 
pidgin. This is the type of pidgin that one will most 
freguently hear if one visits Ghana. 

Ghanaian Pidgin English is primarily a spoken medium of 
communication, with a very few poems and cartoons that can 
be found in the written medium. Like many other pidgins, 
GPE has no standardized orthography. This makes the 
analysis of the language a heinous task. There may be some 
oversimplifications or some overgeneralizations here and 
there. In order to minimize such dangers, the analysis of 
the language in this chapter has been taken from informants 


of a homogeneous background (considering such parameters as 
the level of education, age, profession, exposure to 
standard English) . We have also taken into consideration 
the type of GPE which is common to most of the speakers, 
hence an item is chosen for discussion when it occurs very 
often in most of the conversations, songs, interviews, etc. 
which have been recorded. A word is selected as being a 
representative of GPE if it occurs in both the uneducated 
pidgin and the educated one. 

The linguistic change that has occurred in the 
derivation of GPE items from English will be discussed on 
two planes: the form plane and the content plane. The form 
plane will cover the the phonological, morphological, and 
syntactic analysis, whereas the content plane will focus on 
the semantic analysis of these words. These are the shifts 
in meaning which have occurred in the English derived 
lexicon of GPE. 

Many definitions of pidgin include simplification of 
the superstrate language. In the case of GPE, I will not 
say that the superstrate has been simplified. I will rather 
say that GPE has has been influenced in many ways by the 
substrate languages which are Akan, Ga, Ewe, Nzema, and some 
of the other 45 native languages of Ghana. This influence 
is prevalent at the phonological, morphological, syntactic, 
and semantic levels. Words and sentences from GPE will be 
compared with their counterparts from Akan which is the 

Ghanaian language spoken by the author. Akan-influenced GPE 
is the most common one spoken in Ghana. 

GPE has not been standardized; and as such it has no 
official orthography. The lexicon is mainly English with 
few words from the vernaculars of some of the Ghanaian 
languages. Phonologically, GPE reflects the phonology of 
the Ghanaian languages which are quite similar since most of 
them come from the Kwa group. This phonological reflection 
can be seen in the GPE vowels, consonants, syllable 
structure, and in its suprasegmental features such as tone, 
and vowel harmony. 
Vowels of GPE 

GPE has twelve vowels, nine monothongs and three 
diphthongs which are ai , au, and 01 . These diphthongs are 
sometimes separated by semi vowels which makes it appear 
that GPE has nine underlying vowels. 

Table 4.1. G.P.E. Monothong Vowels 


1 1) 

LOW _ 



Table 4 

• 2 • G • 

P.E. Consonants 









P b 

t d 

k g 






c ] 




f V 






— _ 


The standard English vowels have been replaced by 
vowels in the Ghanaian languages that are close to them in 
guality. Diachronically, we cannot say that the English 
that was introduced to the Gold Coast (now Ghana) was the 
Received Pronunciation (RP) English since not all the 
British sailors and traders who came to the country were 
using RP. since we are concerned with the current emergence 
of GPE, we will compare the vowels of RP with those of GPE. 
Table 4.3. GPE and RP Vowel Substitution 


ae /kaet/ 

d /abawt/ 

a: /wa:rk/ 

A /bAS/ 


a /kat/ ca t 

a /abaut/ about 

e : /we : k/ wor k 

^ /b^su/ Dus 

Consonants of gpf 

GPE has twenty-one consonants. The voiced labio-dental 
fricative, /v/, has very limited occurrence, it is mostly 

replaced by its voiceless counterpart, /f/. It can be seen 
from the chart below that the RP English consonants, /6/ and 
/5/ are not part of the GPE consonants. These are replaced 
by /<*// /V, or /f/. In the same manner /z/ is replaced by 
/s/ in many instances. 
Syllable Structure of GPE 

GPE has eight possible syllabic shapes, examples are: 


V a »I" 

CV mi, go "me, go" 

VC im "his/her" 

cvc tif, sin, get "thief, sin, get" 

CCV tri "tree" 

VCC aks "ask" 

ccvc Plis, fren "please, friend" 

It is very rare to find Ghanaian languages which 

contain the kind of complex initial and final consonant 

clusters of which standard English makes use. These 

clusters are simplified or sometimes lost altogether as a 

result of a tendency which operates in some Ghanaian 

languages to approximate to a syllabicity of CV-CV-CV. 

Sometimes in order to achieve this syllabicity, vowels or 

glides are inserted in the clusters. This syllabicity 

phenomenon also works in GPE; examples are: 


dont d on "don't" 

fcrst f es "first" 

prifekt prifet "prefect" 

b3tl bz>tol "bottle" 

fllm filim "film" 

fayr f aya "fire" 


In some instances, if a consonant or a consonant 

cluster has nasals, it is replaced by nasalized vowels or 

vowels and glides; examples are: 


maynd mal "mind" 

nayt nal "night" 

fayn fa! "fine" 

may mal "my" 


GPE is becoming a tone language because it uses the 
pitch of individual syllables to contrast meanings in some 
cases. Native Ghanaian languages, especially Akan, have two 
main tones, high [»] (H) and low [ ] (L) . The low tone will 
not have any accent mark. 


HH papa good(ness) 

m Papa father 

LL papa f an 

HL pa: pa: to slap 

The above tone phenomenon of the native Ghanaian languages 
has been transferred to GPE, e.g.: 

L go will / shall 

H go go 

LLH a go go I will go 

L de they 

H de copula, continuous aspect 

LHH de de go they are going 

L no negative marker 

H no know 

LLH a no no I don't know 

LLHHLLH a no no sey i go go. 

I don't know that he/she will go. 


Vowel Harmony 

A number of West African languages have harmony 

systems, in which vowels are divided into mutually exclusive 

harmonic sets (e.g. according to height or laxness) so that 

all the vowels in a word will belong to either one set or 

the other. For example in Ijo all the vowels will be either 

lax (i, e, u, 3) or tense (i, e, u, o) (Williamson 1965 in 

Holm 1988:124). This type and other types of vowel harmony 

are found in other Kwa languages like Ibo, Ewe, and Akan. 

In all the dialects of Akan, there are two sets of vowels 

according to the advancement of the tongue root: those with 

Advanced Tongue Root [+ATR] , and those without Advanced 

Tongue Root [-ATR] . This is horizontal vowel harmony. 

[+ATR] i e ae u o 
[-ATR] i e a u a 

In any Akan word of two or more syllables, only the vowels 
of one set will occur. 

[+ATR] t _ ATR] 

[wubebu] "you'll break . . " [wubebu] "you'll beat » 
[osi] "he/she washes." [osi] "he/she sharpens." 
[mini] "here I am." [mini] "I mean . .» 

The Fante dialect of Akan has labial vowel harmony 

which occurs together with the horizontal one. This means 

rounded [+RD] vowels will occur in one word and the 

unrounded [-RD] ones will occur in another word. 


Table 4.4. Labial and Horizontal Vowel Harmony in Akan 





"I'm going to dig." 


"I'm going to eat." 



"I'm going to throw." 

mi rikeg y i ] 

"I'm going to get." 

The vowel harmony in Akan operates between words in 
sentences and in compound words where a word with [+ATR] 
vowels is followed by a word with [-ATR] vowels. The [+ATR] 
word assimilates the immediate preceding vowel into the 
corresponding [+ATR] vowel. The following are some examples: 

Compound words 

[akukz>] + [nini] -> [akukonini] 

chicken + male -> rooster 

[ahm] + [di] -> [ahindi] 
chief + to be -> chieftaincy 

There is no assimilation if the first word contains [+ATR] 
vowels and the second contains [-ATR] vowels; here is an 

[aehuhuro] + [bire] -> [aehuhubire] 
heat + time -> hot weather 


[=do mfuo] -> [odo mfuo] "he/she cultivates farms." 

[tu tuo] -> [to tuo] "shoot a gun." 


[di asem] -> [di asem] "settle a case." 

The vowel [a] is neutral to the vowel harmony in Akan. 
That is why [onami ] "God" has mixed vowels. 


The horizontal vowel harmony in Akan also works in GPE. 
The following examples from a conversation we had with a GPE 
singer are representative of most of GPE speakers: 



evi rib=>di 




di sko 

d=>k j ument 


man i 


"what thing" 






We have noticed that the vowel harmony can go through a 

whole phrase or clause. The following is an example from a 

GPE song. 

bi f 3 yu g^ liv na yu go no 

"Before you will live it is you who will know." 

We notice from the above sentence that [-ATR] vowels begin 
from "bifD" and end at "na", and [+ATR] vowels begin from 
"yu" and end at "no". In many vowel harmony systems, the 
vowel [a] seems to be neutral to vowel harmony. That is why 
the harmony got broken with "na". 

Another observation from the above vocalic harmonic 
sentence is on the pronoun "you". In the first part of the 
sentence its vowel is [-ATR], but it has a [+ATR] vowel in 
the second part. This depends on the harmonic set of vowel 
that the word will fall into. The following are more 
examples of [-ATR] vowel harmony: 


luk yu^ han wclwel 

("Look at your hand well") . "Be careful with your 


m^m d:=n k=s am 
"Money has caused it." 


General inflection system in GPE is limited, therefore 

the grammatical information is manifested through other 

devices like tone, reduplication, word formation, and the 

syntactic system. 

Tone is used to bring about lexical as well as grammatical 

differences in GPE. This has been discussed under tone as a 

phonemic entity in GPE. 


Reduplication is the repetition of all or part of a 
lexical item. GPE reduplications are complete. The whole 
lexical item is repeated. Among other things, reduplication 
indicates such concepts as plurality, repetition, increase 
in size, added intensity, and continuance. 

Redupli cated nouns . Reduplication of a GPE noun 
indicates plurality. It may also indicate freguency. 
Examples are: 

A hi e rumorumo sey de go kam 19th. 

"I heard some rumour that they will come on the 19th." 

Haw Misa Danguah t^k sey, mek wi stz>p di s piitnmiin . 
wey wi bi English studen. 


"Mr. Danquah has told us that we should stop this 
frequent use of pidgin because we are English 
students . " 

A: So i min sey Asamoah de f3k af tanun-af tanun . 

B: Eeh. 

A: Af tanun-af tanun f^k i no mek f3k. 

A: "So it means that Asamoah makes love in the 

afternoons. " 
B: "Yes." 
A: "Afternoon love-makings are no love-makings." 

Redupli cated verbs . Reduplication of a GPE verb shows 

repetition. It may also show action continuity. Examples 


A: So yu, yu get m^ni at 33? Yu get m^m fz> de 

eks 'mas? 

B: Oh, de eks' mas die 

A: De litil mom yu get, yu kam spen f3 skuul hie. 

Wey yu de invavt-invayt ledis soso las wik. 

A: "So do you have money at all? Do you have money 

for the Christmas?" 

B: "Oh, as for the Christmas " 

A: "The little money you have, you have spent it here 

in school. You were always inviting all these 

women last week." 

Wey 33 de akawntm pipul, dey dey, evinb3di sabi sey 
dey dey de m3ni t3p a, dey de rayt som tins, dey de 
rayt-rayt S3m tins den dey de tietie s^m. 

"All the accounting people everybody knows that when 
they are in charge of money, they write some things and 
they write some things again, and then they cancel some 
of them." 

De fes tarn wey ma wayf b3n-b3n lak dis, i J3 S tro awey 
twins f3 grawn. 

"The first time that my wife gave birth, she just threw 
away twins onto the ground." 

Den a si 33 ma fren dem, dem bigin bay-bay sterio, 
televishin, friji, en S3m de man. 


"Then I saw all my friends beginning to buy stereos, 
televisions, fridges, and some were marrying." 

A dz>n w=>ku -woku -W3ku -w^ku f^ di s weld. 

"I have worked all over the world." 

A: Bat de t^>p dee no a, i ren finish? 
B: De tz>p dee, a ti nk i bi naw i de ren-ren 

A: "But in the North, has it stopped raining?" 
B: In the North, I think that it is now that it is 
raining moderately." 

Reduplicated adjectives. Standard English shows the 
intensity of an adjective by adding degree words such as 
"very", "much", or "many" to the adjective. GPE indicates 
this intensity by reduplicating the adjective. Examples 

Tumorow eli m=ru n a sen yu bak tu yz>3 mz>da. Fal -fa! 
tsitsi, fal -fal wumal , yu no sabi n^tin; a sen yu bak 
tu yoo moda. 

"Tomorrow early in the morning I'll send you back to 
your mother. A very beautiful lady, a very beautiful 
woman, you don't know anything. I'll send you back to 
your mother. " 

When wi bi smosms pikin dem. 

"When we were very little children." 

Reduplicated adverbs . Reduplication of the adverb in 
GPE shows the intensification of the manner in which the 
action is performed. Examples are: 

Remi, luk yz> han wel-wel . 

"Remi, be very careful about your hand." 

Mek evereb^de put m ay f=, de tin wey m pikin de do 
mk^s if yu bon y^ pikin yu no tich am wel-wel : las 


minit yu go si am sumowk wiiwii, tek drogs; las minit 
yu go si am anda bri j , wey i crez. 

"Everybody should watch the things that his or her 
child does, because if you have your child and you 
don't teach him or her very well, last minute you will 
see him or her smoking marijuana, taking drugs; and 
last moment you will see him or her under a bridge, 
when he or she has become crazy person." 

Mi a sabi buk prjpa-prjp a bi k^s no kal skuul wey i 
dey fz. ma vileji wey a no go bifo. 

"I know the academics very well because there is no 
school in my village that I have never attended 
before. " 

Funct ional shift reduplications . The function or class 
category of some words change when these words are 
reduplicated in GPE. In the following song, the verb "lay" 
("lie") has been reduplicated and become an adjective to 
qualify the nouns "fayt" ("fight"), "mal" ("man"), and 
"wumal" ("woman"). But in the clauses "evereb^de de laylay" 
("everybody is lyinglying" and "a no de laylay" ("I am not 
lying"), "lie" has been reduplicated to show the intensity 
of the action. 

It w^s wan nayt, a de paspas som k^na. Pipul de fayt 
msayd son. rum-kona. Mi a ti nk i bi propa fayt; at las 
i bi laylay fayt. Brada, a hi e de wumal sey "yu laylay 
mal., den de mal tuu sey "yu lavlav wuma ; : den mi a sey 
"so everebode de laylay " ; hahaa fa de stz>ri : mi a 
no de laylay . 

"It was one night when I was passing by a street 
corner. People were fighting in a room. I thouqht it 
was a proper fight. At last it was a fake fight! 
Brother, I heard the woman saying "you are a liar" 
then the man too said "you are a liar"; then I also 
l?ing""° €Verybody is iying"- For this story, I am not 


We realize from the above examples that there is a 

morphosyntactic phenomenon that brings about the functional 

shift of the reduplicated words in GPE. In most cases when 

the reduplicated verb occurs before the noun phrase (NP) , it 

functions as an adjective whereas when it occurs after the 

NP it just intensifies the action word. 

When a reduplicated noun occurs before an NP, it 

functions as an adjective, whereas it functions as an adverb 

when it occurs after a verb phrase (VP) . In both cases the 

reduplicated noun signifies plurality. This is illustrated 

in the following conversation where speaker A uses aftanun- 

aftanun in his first sentence as a noun plurality that is 

also functioning as an adverb, but uses it in his second 

sentence as an adjective. 

A: So i min sey Asamoah de fok aftanun-aftanun ? 
B: Eeh. 

A: Aftanun-aftanun fz>k i no mek fz>k. 

A: "So it means that Asamoah makes love in the 

B: "Yes." 
A: "Afternoons love-making are no love-making." 

In most instances, when a reduplicated form of "so" 

which is "soso" occurs before an NP, it functions as a 

degree adjective "many" or "plenty". This phenomenon is 

illustrated in the following examples 

Legon de. Onli sey a don' layk Cape Vas ageyn. Soso 
Education, a taya. God sef sabi sey a taya. 

"Legon is available. It is only that I don't like Cape 
Vars. (University) again. A lot of Education, I am 
tired of it. Even God knows that I am tired of it " 


A: Shuga no dey yo haws a sey . . 
B: (LAUGHING) Shuga no dey ma haws oo. Soso 
ri strikshms. 

A: "Is there no sugar in your house or . ." 

B: "(LAUGHING) No, there is no sugar in my house; 

plenty of restrictions." 

Layf na shot oo, bat soso trobuls. 

"Life is very short, but there are many troubles." 

De tin wey in fo mi, mek a tek am, na soso pr^mis. 

"The thing that is for me, let me take it, for there 
are too many promises." 

Bifo a go si, de hoo tebul don ful ap wit soso gels. 

"Before I became aware, the whole table was filled up 
with many girls." 

In some cases when soso occurs after an NP it functions 
as an anaphor with an antecedent in the same sentence or 
discourse. Examples are: 

A: So yu get mom wey yu entetein yuo frens, wey som 
dey wey yu go tek chop eks'mas a i min sey yu tif 

B: Yu mek studen. Yu mek studen. Haw yu de get 
plenti moni ? Na so. I bi soso a de tok. 

A: Yu shuo? 

B: I no bi in? Enewey dey de treyn yu fo hie haw yu 
de stil de mom. I no bi so? De akawnti n pipul i 
no bi soso yu de du? 

A: "So if you have money that you entertain your 

friends with, and you have some left that you will 
spend the Christmas with, does it mean that vou 
stole it?" 

B: "You are a student. You are a student. How do you 
get plenty of money like that? That is what I am 
talking about. " 


A: "Are you sure?" 

B: "Isn't it? Anyway they are training you how to 

steal money. Isn't it so? Is it not what you the 

accounting people are doing?" 

Ma haws no swit mi. I bi soso a dey hie. 

"My house is not enjoyable for me. That's why I am 

here . " 

Word Compounding in GPE 

There are very few word compounds in GPE. The meanings 

of these compounds are different from those of their 

individual parts. The compounds are free forms. In the 

following speech t^kabawt which means "gossip" is made up of 

verb-preposition, but the compound is a noun. Bakbavt whose 

meaning is the same as that of standard English "backbite" 

is made up of noun-verb, but the compound is a noun. 

Som pipul dey, soso jel^s dem bi; soso t^kabawt : soso 
bakbayt . Na wetin bi z>r> di s? 

"There are some people who are very jealous. Many 
gossips; many backbites. What are all these?" 

In the following sentence, man -mal and man -wumaT 

which mean "a married man" and "a married woman" 

respectfully are made up of verb-noun but the compounds are 

nouns. Mom -mata which means "money affairs" is made up of 

noun-noun and the compound is a noun. 

De tin wey i dey i nsayd man, na man -mal en 

man -wumaj , i bi dem sabi bi kz>s even tin wey yu go do i 

bi m^ni -mata . 

"What is inside marriage, it is the married man and the 
married woman who know; because every thing that you do 
is money affair." 


In the following speech, the adjectival compound mal - 
e n ' -wumal which qualifies "fayt" ("fight") is made up of 

Jo, dis no bi yuo palava. I bi mal -en '-wumal fayt. 
Dey k=>l am laylay fayt. 

"Joe, this is not your business. It's a man-and-woman 
fight. They call it a fake fight." 


There is not too much difference between the syntax of 

GPE and those of the other West African English pidgins 

(Schneider 1966 and Todd 1984 on Cameroon; Mafeni 1971 and 

Barbag-Stoll 1983 on Nigerian) . 

The Basic Sentence Structure 

The basic sentence pattern of GPE is (Subject) 
Predicate (Object) (Complement) where the bracketed elements 
are optional: 

Rid! "Read!" 

Rid de pepa. "Read the paper." 

De b^y de rid de pepa. "The boy is reading the paper." 
De b^y de rid de pepa plas im spetakils. "The boy is 

reading the paper with his spectacles." 

Tense-Modal-Aspect CTMA) 

The following is how Givon has briefly explained Tense- 
Modal-Aspect (TMA) of a language: 

Tense involves primarily - though not exclusively - our 
experience / concept of time as points in a seouenrP . 
and thus the notions of precedence and subsequent . 
Aspects of various kinds involve our notion of the 
boundedness of time-spans, i.e. various configurations 
of beginning, ending and middle points. But in the 
semantic space of aspect, nearly always some element of 
tense is also involved, in terms of establishing a term 


of point-of-reference along sequential time. Finally, 
modality encompasses among other things our notions of 
reality, in the sense of "having factual existence at 
some real time" ("true"), "having existence at no real 
time" ("false"), or "having potential existence in some 
vet-to-be time" ("possible") . Synchronically, 
diachronically and ontogenetically, TAM categories are 
interconnected. (Givon 1984:272) 

Bickerton (1975) has outlined a classical TMA system as 
including one preverbal AUX to mark anterior tense (simple 
past for states and past-before-past for actions) , one to 
mark irrealis mood ("future" and conditional) and one to 
mark nonpunctual aspect (progressive and habitual) . He has 
further suggested that a prototypical creole TAM system 
should conform to this description and order. 

The TMA of GPE is expressed syntactically. It is not 

expressed morphologically as it is done in some cases in 

standard English. Some lexical items precede the main verb 

to express the TAM of GPE as has been expressed by 

Bickerton. But GPE departs from Bickerton «s analysis by not 

having any AUX or marker to express anteriority. Because of 

this a verb without a preverbal AUX has two meanings if it 

is taken out of a discourse context; for example: 

a go skuul. 

"I go to school." 

"I went to school." 

In the following example the discourse context shows that 
the event happened in the past. 

Charlie, a hi e sey yu go horn wey yu go spen tu wiks. 
Way yu no wz>n' kam skuul? 


"Charlie, I heard that you went home to spend two 
weeks. Why didn't you want to come to school." 

Adverbials of time are also used to show time relations, for 


A go skuul eviridey . 

"I go to school everyday." 

A go skuul las wik . 

"I went to school last week." 

Aspect GPE is aspect-prominent rather than tense- 
prominent. GPE aspect conforms to the classical TAM model 
of Bickerton. The AUX de is used to denote nonpunctual or 
progressive aspect, for example 

a de go skuul. 

"I am going to school." 

I de ch^p de tarn a go im haws. 

"He/she was eating when I went to his/her house." 

I de ch:=p eni tarn a go im house. 

"He/she is eating every time I go to his/her house." 

The AUX de at times denotes habitual ity, like in the 

following example: 

A no go l^v bia. A de lov ginis rada. I bi ginis a de 

"I will not like beer. I like guiness rather. It's 
guiness I like." "I went to school last week." 

Perfect ive aspect The perfective (or completive) 

aspect is expressed by preceding the main verb with the AUX 

d^n which always carries a high tone. 

A d^n go skuul. 

"I have gone to school." 


Mood GPE mood also conforms to the classical TAM 

model. The The irrealis AUX go is used to denote "future". 

This auxiliary always carries a low tone to differentiate it 

from the verb go which carries a high tone. 

A go go skuul. 

"I will go to school." 

The mod al "fit" This modal which means "can" or 

"be able" precedes the main verb. If it occurs together 

with an auxiliary, the auxiliary precedes "fit" ("fit"): 


A fit go skuul. 

"I can go to school. / I could go to school." 

A de fit go skuul. 
"I can go to school." 

A go fit go skuul. 

I will be able to go to school." 

The modal "fs" This modal stands for obligation. It 

is sometimes replaced with [m=>] . 

A f a go skuul . 

"I should go to school." 

Yu ms now. 

"You must know. " 

Focus marker "na" Any constituent in a GPE sentence 

can be focussed by being fronted and making it occur 

immediately after the word na . 

A de go skuul. 

"I am going to school." 

Na skuul a de go. 

"It is school that I am going to." 


Na go a de go skuul. 

"It is going to school that I am doing." 

Na mi de go skuul . " 

"It is I going to school." 

This na is also used in Akan as a focus marker, but it 

occurs immediately after the fronted constituent which is 

being focussed. 


me-re-ka nokware. 

I-PRES-speak truth. 

"I am speaking the truth." 

nokware na me-re-ka. 

truth FOCUS I-PRES-speak. 

"It's the truth that I am speaking." 

If we compare the above Akan sentences to their GPE 

counterparts we will have the following: 

A de t=>k tru. 

"I am speaking the truth." 

Na tru a de t^k. 

"It's the truth that I'm speaking." 

We are not claiming that this focus na which is used in 

other West African English pidgins originated from the Akan 

language. We have just shown that the same syntactic 

phenomenon do exist in Akan. Further research will have to 

be done for such a claim. What has been shown is the 

influence that some of the Ghanaian languages have on GPE. 

Another way of focus in GPE is the use of the present 

form of the copula BI [bi]. The pronoun I [i] precedes BI to 

form this focus marker. These two elements precede the 

constituent that is being focussed. if the focussing 


constituent is a pronoun, the objective case is chosen. 

Here are some examples: 

I bi tru a de t^k. 

"It's the truth that I am speaking." 

I bi mi t=>k tru. 

"It's I speaking the truth." 

I bi dem de go horn. 
"It's they going home." 

I bi im de go horn. 

"It's he/she going home." 

I bi wi de t^k tru. 

"It's we speaking the truth." 


Negation is a proposition that is asserted as being 
false. Negation is expressed in GPE by preceding TAM with 
the lexical item "no." This means "no" precedes an irrealis 
marker like the future go. it will precede an aspect marker 
like the nonpunctual aspect de, and it will precede a modal 
like fit. The seguence will be: 



A no go skuul . 

"I don't go to school." OR "I didn't go to 

school . " 


A no de go skuul . 

"I am not going to school." OR 

"I was not going to school." 


A no go go skuul. 

"I will not go to school." 


NEG + fit + MAIN VERB 

A no f i t go skuul . 

"I can't go to school." 

NEG + go + fit + MAIN VERB 
A no go f i t go skuul . 
"I will not be able to go to school." 

The perfective aspect don does not have a negative 

counterpart that takes "no". Instead "yet" ("yet") is added 

to the construction to show the negative perfective aspect 

like in the following example. 

A d^n go skuul. 

"I have gone to school." 

* a no don go skuul . 

A no go skuul yet. 

"I have not gone to school yet." 

Nigerian Pidgin English (NPE) and Cameroon Pidgin 

English (CPE) use "neva" ("never") as the negative form of 

the perfective aspect. 


A neva go skuul. 

"I have not gone to school." 

GPE does not use "neva" the way it is used by NPE and CPE. 

It is used by GPE in the way standard English uses it. 


A neva go skuul. 

"I don't go to school." 

The negative form of the copula is expressed by 
preceding bi with "no" which in turn is preceded by the 
dummy i: I + NO + BI . 

I no bi mi bit am. 

"It wasn't/isn't I who beat him/her." 



Imperative is an attempt by a speaker to elicit action 

from a hearer. In GPE this is done in two different ways: 

One is by the use of the verb phrase alone without any 

subject; examples: 

Go! "Go (away) ! 

Go tel am! "Go and tell him/her." 

Go bnn dem! "Go and bring them." 

The other way is by starting each command, request, or 

exhortation with the word "mek" ("make"). This one requires 

the mention of the subject which follows the imperative word 

"mek" . In most cases imperative with the copula verb uses 

this method; examples: 

Mek yu go! "Go (away)! / (get away)!" 

Mek yu go tel am! "Go and tell him/her!" 

Mek yu go bri n dem! "Go and bring them!" 

Mek yu tel am! "Tell him/her!" 

Mek yu bnn dem! "Bring them!" 

Mek yu bi gud ticha! "Be a good teacher!" 

Negative imperatives The imperative form starting with 

"mek" seems to be the one most commonly used in the negative 

imperative. "No go!", "No tel am!", etc. do not sound quite 


Mek yu no go! "Don't go (away)! / (get 

away) ! " 

Mek yu no go tel am! "Don't go and tell him/her!" 

Mek yu no go bri n dem! "Don't go and bring them!" 

Mek yu no tel am! "Don't tell him/her!" 

Mek yu no bri n dem! "Don't bring them!" 

Mek yu no bi bad ticha! "Don't be a bad teacher!" 


Interrogative is a request by a speaker of information 
from a hearer. There are two ways of expressing 


interrogative in GPE. One is by changing the intonation of 

a statement, and the other is by using interrogative words. 


A go skuul A go skuul 

"I go/went to school." "I go/went to school?" 

A fit go skuul A fit go skuul 

"I can go to school." "Can I go to school?" 

A no de fit go skuul A no de fit go skuul 

"I can't go to school." "Can't I go to school?" 

The word "wey" is often used for the guestion words 

"where", "when", "what", and "how". The words themselves 

are used in certain contexts. 

Wey (tin) yu go du? 
"What will you do?" 

Wey i dey? 

"Where is he/she?" 

Wey i bi? 

"Where is he/she?" 

Wey i go kam? 

"When will he/she come?" 

Wey tarn i go kam? 

"When will he/she come?" 

Wey kal pcsm kam hie? 
"Who comes/came here?" 

The focus na is sometimes used with the guestion words. 

In this case na means "and", and it is used for emphasis 

depending upon the preceding statement by any of the 

interlocutors; e.g. 

Na hu bi im? 

"And who is he/she?" ("Who does he/she think he/she 

IS . 1 


The above question is an example of attitudinal 

question. This shows an attitude that the questioner has 

about the third person. The questioner may have an 

unhealthy attitude about the third person perhaps the one 

being talked about has been very boastful, or has been 

blowing his or her own horn. The following is part of a GPE 

song showing both the cohesive and focus uses of na. 

If a no beta fo ma own layf, 
na hus folt 
na mi kz>s am 

"If I don't do well for my own life, 

it is whose fault; 

It is I who has caused it." 

Exclamations and Emphasis 

Exclamations and emphasis in GPE are commonly conveyed 
by the addition of particular words or expressions either at 
the beginning or at the end of a proposition, and are always 
expressed with the appropriate intonation. Prolonged sounds 
which are vowels like oo or aa are added to expressions to 
emphasize the emotional concern of the speaker. 

Plenti palava kam oo . 

"There's lots of trouble! / We've got real trouble!" 

I had oo . 

"It is very hard / difficult / trying!" 

I fan pr^pa . 

"It / He / She is very nice / handsome / beautiful!" 

I veks prrpa . 

"He / she is very angry!" 

I gud tuu mpch . 

I He ,/„ She iS a Very good P ers °n! / He / She is so 


A sey i I fal tuu m^ch . 

"My word! It's really nice! / She's really a fine 


A chop am wan tarn . 

"I ate it immediately / at once!" 

I ren plenti olenti . 

"It rained a lot / great deal!" 

Personal pronouns 

Table 4.4 shows the personal pronouns in Ghanaian 
Pidgin English: 

Table 4.4. Personal Pronouns of G.P.E. 



1st Person Singular 



2nd Person Singular 



3rd Person Singular 

hi, i 

am, im 

1st Person Plural 



2nd Person Plural 



3rd Person Plural 

1 _ — 

dey , dem 




The transitive possessive pronouns which occur just 
before the possessed element like in standard English are: 
"ma", "yu", "im/m", "yu", "wa", and "dem/dea" for "my", 
"your" (singular), "his/her", "your" (plural) , "our", and 
"their" respectively; e.g. 

I bi ma haws. "It's my house." 

I bi m haws. "It's his/her house." 

I bi yz> haws. "it's your (sg./pl.) house." 

I bi wa haws. "It's our house." 

I bi dem/dea haws. "It's their house." 


The intransitive possessive pronouns "mine", 

"his/hers", "yours", "ours", and "theirs" in GPE are 

expressed by adding the word "own" to the transitive 

possessive pronouns; e.g. 

I bi ma own "It's mine." 

I bi in own "It's his/hers." 

There is no morphological possessive marker in GPE as 

it is in English Is, like "father's house", "Rita's child", 

or "Joe's house". In GPE the transitive possessive pronoun 

occurs between the possessor and the possessed, the former 

on the left and the latter on the right; e.g. 

papa in haws "father's house" 

Joe i n buk "Joe ' s book" 

Rita in pikin "Rita's child" 

pikin dem papa "the children's father" 

Sometimes a whole expression with the word "get" is used to 

express possessive; e.g. 

I bi mi get am. "It's mine. / it belongs to me." 

I bi wi get de haws. "It's our house." 

Hu get dis haws. "Whose house is this? 

The Articles 

There are two main articles in GPE: "de" and "a". 
Both articles are used in the way they are used in standard 
English. The only difference is that many times »s3m" is 
used instead of "a", even though "som" is used with its 
usual meaning in some contexts. "Wan" is sometimes used 
instead of "a." GPE does not use "an." 

De pies no gud. "The place isn't good." 


I brin som pikin plas am. 

"He/she brought a child with him/her." 

Dey sey dem bn n som. "They say they brought some." 

A get wan dog. »i have a dog." 

Prepositions and Postpositions 

The only word which is used as a preposition in GPE is 

"fa". It is always accompanied with a syntactic phenomenon 

in some of the Ghanaian languages, whereby some lexical 

items occur after the noun they gualify. We call these 

locative lexical items postpositions. Some examples are 

"top," "inside," "outside," and "under." This means GPE 

has both prepositions and postpositions. The following is a 

comparison between an Akan sentence and a GPE sentence. 


Fa nwoma no to pono no so . 

take book the put table the on/top 

"Put the book on the table!" 


Put de buk fo de tebul top . 
"Put the book on the table!" 

The following are some more examples of the preposition- 
postposition phenomenon from some of the recordings we have 

Wey de pipul kam biliv am fo de haws insayd. 

"That the people came to believe him/her inside the 

house. " 

I go woka fo dee soso; i de slip fo bn j anda dem. 
"He went and roamed about; he was sleeping under 
bridges. " 

Wey 33 de akawntm pipul dey dey, evenbodi sabi sey 
dey dey mom top . 


"That all the accountants, everybody knows that they 
are on top of the money (they control the money)." 

Complementizer "sey" 

Verbs of saying, thinking, knowing, remembering, and 

sensing are followed by the complementizer "sey" ("that") . 

This complementizer might come from the Akan language which 

uses "se" ("that") in the same syntactic position (Holm 

1988:186; Turner 1949:201; Cassidy 1961:63). 


Joe ka-a se. z>-be-ba. 

Joe say-PAST that he-will-come 

"Joe said that he will come." 


Joe tz>k sey i go kam. 

"Joe said that he will come." 


Me-nim se. Joe be-ba. 
I-know that Joe will-come 
"I know that Joe will come. 


A sabi sey Joe go kam. 

"I know that Joe will come." 


Me-te-e se. 3-be-ba. 

I-hear-PAST that he/she-will-come 

"I heard that he/she will come." 


A hi e sey i go kam 

"I heard that he/she will come." 

Comparative / S uperlative Exp ression 

There are no morphological markers for the expression 
of comparative and superlative notions in GPE. The word 
"pas" ("than") is used to express the notion of comparative 


It comes immediately after the adjective or the expression 

being used to compare the two entities. 

Joe big pas John. 

"Joe is bigger than John." 

I sabi buk pas im fren. 

"He/she is smarter than his/her friend." 

If the superlative notion is being expressed, then 

quantitative adverbs like "everitm" ("everything"), 

"evenb^di " ("everybody"), and "=>=.» ("all") are used 

together with "pas". 

Joe big pas evenbodi. 

"Joe is bigger than everybody. / Joe is the biggest." 

I sabi buk pas zo im fren. 

"He/she is the smartest among his/her friends." 

The expression of the comparative and superlative 

notions in GPE follows the syntax of some Kwa languages. 

This is how the above sentences are expressed in Akan: 


Joe so kyen John. 
Joe big than John 
"Joe is bigger than John." 

O-nim nwoma kyen n'-adamfo. 
He/She-knows books than his/her-friend 
"He/She is smarter than his/her friend." 

Joe so kyen obiara. 

Joe big than everybody 

"Joe is bigger than evrybody." 

O-nim nwoma kyen ne n-namfo nyinaa. 
He/She-knows book than his/her PL-friend all 
"He/She is the smartest among his/her friends." 

Some more GPE common complex constructions and expressions 
can be found in Appendix C. 

Semantics of Some G.P.E. Words 
Semantics is the study of the meaning of words, phrases 
and sentences. Although the basic vocabulary of GPE comes 
from English, some of these words have acquired different or 
additional meanings. GPE also has loan translations or 
caiques which have been made from some of the Ghanaian 
languages. There are some words which have been borrowed 
from Portuguese, Yoruba, Hausa, and some of the Ghanaian 
languages. These words have retained their original 
meanings. The above semantic phenomena will be discussed in 
this section. Since many of the word and sentence meanings 
to be described are affected in one way or the other by 
caique, it will be appropriate for us to know how Bynon has 
defined caique. 

In loan translation or caique (literally "tracing", 
"copy"), the form and meaning of a foreign word, 
instead of being carried over into the recipient 
language as a unit is merely employed as a model for a 
native creation. For this to be possible it must be 
both morphologically complex and semantically 
transparent, and the process consists in substituting 
for each of its morphs the semantically closest morph 
in the recipient language and combining these according 
to its own native rules of word-formation. Thus while 
the choice of constituent morphs and the overall 
meaning of the new construct will be modelled on the 
foreign source, the constituent elements themselves and 
the rules governing their combination will be native 
(Bynon, 1983:232) 

Plas The word "plas" which means "and" or 

"add/addition" has maintained these meanings in GPE and has 

acquired the new meaning "with", which is unique to GPE. 


The following examples from the recordings we made will make 

this meaning clear. 

plas P'with'n 

Yu shu => sey a de go y=> haws plas yu? Mi, dos hu 

de go awt plas mi a no de go dem haws plas dem. 

"Are you sure that I am going to your house with you? 
For me, those who go out with me, I don't go to their 
house with them." 

A fz> go slip plas ma b=>yfren. 

"I should go and sleep with my boyfriend." 

A dey de sem h^l plas yu. 

"I am/was in the same hall with you." 

MALE (SPEAKING STANDARD) : How did you pick up pidgin 

FEMALE (SPEAKING GPE) : Aaa, a no sabi oo. Wey a dey 
skuul a rid sayans so de b:=ys wey a de stadi 
plas dem nu dem as spik pijin so a pik am welwel. 

MALE: "How did you pick up pidgin English?" 
FEMALE: "Well, I don't know. When I was in school I 
read science and all the boys whom I was studying 
with spoke pidgin so I picked it up easily." 

Yu de wz>ka plas S3mb=>di ; a no go fit sabi sey s^m 
kone shins dey? A go sabi! 

"You are walking with somebody; Can't I know that there 
are some connections? I will know!" 

plas ("and'n 

Mek yu go Volta Region Students Union plas Western 
Region Students Union. 

"Go to the Volta Region Students Union and the Western 
Region Students Union." 

Wey yu get ted yi a a, onli yu de konsentreyt fo yo i 3n 
ese plas yz> kos. 

"If you get to third year, you only concentrate on your 
long essay and your course work." 


We observe from the above examples that GPE, like many 
other Creoles and pidgins, uses the same word " plas " for 
both "with" and "and". Akan uses the word "ne" ([ni]) for 
both words in the same way that " plas " is used above in GPE. 

Sef The word "sef" ("self") has retained its reflexive 
meaning in GPE. It has acguired another meaning which is a 
caique from the Ghanaian languages. This meaning is "even" 
as an intensive element to emphasize the identity or 
character of somebody or something. It follows the 
constituent that is being emphasized. The constituent can 
be a word, phrase, or sentence. This syntactic structure is 
akin to that of Akan in which the words mpo or koraa are 
used. The following example which shows this meaning of 
"sef" at the word level is part of a discourse by a lady who 
said she was fed up with Education as a course. 


Onyame mpo nim se m-a-bre 

God even knows that I-PERF-tire 

"Even God knows that I am tired." 


God sef sabi sey a taya. 

God even knows that I tire 

"Even God knows that I am tired." 

Legon de. Onli sey a don' layk Cape Vas ageyn. Soso 
Education, a taya. God sef sabi sey a taya. 

"Legon (University of Ghana) is there (available) . 
It's only that I don't like Cape Vars (Cape Coast 
University) . I am tired of all this education. Even 
God knows that I am tired." 

The following is part of a conversation between the 
author and a steward who does not speak Akan. His usage of 


"sef" here shows that it is not only the Akan speakers of 

GPE who use "sef" in this way. I was enquiring about 

another steward, and this is his answer. We will compare 

his answer to its counterpart in Akan. 


Yestadey sef i kam. 
Yesterday even he come 
"Even yesteday he came." 


cnora mpo 3-ba-e 

Yesterday even he-come-PAST 

"Even yesteday he came." 

JOE (STANDARD ENGLISH): I don't see Akosombo these 

ALHASSAN (GPE) : I dey. Yestadey sef i kam. 

JOE: "I don't see Akosombo these days." 
ALHASSAN: "He's around. Even yesterday he came." 

The following is an example of the usage of "sef" at the 

phrase level. This will also be compared to its Akan 



Leta z>n sef dey show am agen. 
Later on even they show it again 
"Even later on they showed it again." 


Akyire yi mpo w^-yi-i bio. 

Later on even they-show-PAST again 

"Even later on they showed it again." 

The following example of the use of "sef" at the sentence 
level comes from a conversation by two participants who were 
expressing their views on how Ghanaian football (soccer) 
players are neglected after they have retired from active 



Dey no go mal yu sef . 

They NEG will mind you even 

"They will not even think about you." 


Wo-m-mua wo mpo . 

They-NEG-mind you even 

"They will not even think about you." 

A: F=> di s Ghana hie, layk yu pley yo bool wey yu 

finish, nobodi de rigad yu. 
B: Dey no go mal yu sef ene mzo. 

A: "In Ghana here, if you play football and you 

retire, nobody regards you." 
B: "They will not even think about you any more." 

Sometimes some speakers make the emphasis stronger by 

using both "sef" and "koraa" in the same sentence. At times 

"self" is replaced with "koraa". In the following example 

"Tamale Real United" and "Hearts" ("Hearts of Oak") are 

Ghanaian soccer teams. 

Tamale sef koraa . Real United koraa . dey de tie 
("tear") Hearts oo. 

"Even Tamale, even Real United are beating Hearts." 
Chop in GPE, the word "chop" ("chop") does not have the 
same meaning it has in standard English. "Cut" or "fell" 
will be used in that sense. Instead "chcp" is used with the 
meanings it has from the Ghanaian languages which are 
"eat/ feed", "spend", "squander", "food", and the derogatory 
way of saying that a man makes love to a woman. Some 
speakers use fz>k, for the last meaning. Some even use 
"monch" which sounds milder. Some speakers also use "cho" 
which is the clipped form of "chop", and some use "chos" for 

food. In Akan, the word for "chop" is "di" . The following 
Akan phrases show how "di" is used. 


di aduane 
di sika 
di buronya 
di afoofi 
di asem 
di obaa 

eat food" 

'spend/ squander money" 
'spend Christmas" 
'spend holiday/vacation" 

settle a case" 
'make love to a woman (derogatory) " 

The following examples show the way the usage of "chop" in 
GPE is akin to that of "di" in Akan. 

A: So yu get mom wey yu entetein yuo frens, wey som 
dey wey yu go tek chop eks'mas a i min sey yu tif 

B: Yu mek studen. Yu mek studen. Haw yu de get 
plenti mom? Na so. I bi soso a de tok. 

A: Yu shuo? 

B: I no bi in? Enewey dey de treyn yu f o hi e haw yu 
de stil de mom. I no bi so? De akawnti n pipul i 
no bi soso yu de du? 

A: "So if you have money that you entertain your 

friends with, and you have some left that you will 

spend the Christmas with, does it mean that vou 

stole it?" 
B: "You are a student. You are a student. How do you 

get plenty of money like that? That is what I am 

talking about." 
A: "Are you sure?" 
B: "Isn't it? Anyway they are training how to steal 

money. Isn't it so? Is it not what you the 

accounting people are doing?" 

A: Wey yu no lod tuu, yu no get eneti n yu go chop . 
B: Eeh, yu no get mom yu de chop on. 

A: "And if you are not loaded (with money), you don't 

have anything you'll eat ." 
B: "Yes you don't have any money to feed on." 

De chos nu, wey kal yu won? Yu won de indijinos wan o 
mek a mek de oyibo tayp? 


"The food , what kind do you want? Do you want the 
indigeneous type or I should prepare the whiteman 

Wi go chop naw; bele-ful. God dey. 

"We'll eat now; stomach-full (satisfaction). God 
exists. " 

I go sit dawn, chop kenke mek sombodi kam bit am. 

"He will sit down, eat kenkey, and let somebody come 
and beat him (talking about a boxer)." 

Na tru sey di s weld i dey bi ta tu stey. When yu don 
sofa put fud tugeda, bat dey no agiriy mek yu chop am. 
Yu si am; Monki de wok, babun de chop . 

"It is true that this world is a bitter place to live. 
When you have suffered to put food together, but they 
don't agree to allow you to eat it. You see! Monkey 
works, but baboon enjoys." 

A no sabi nunch . 

"I don't know how to make love." 

The above comparisons between the usage of di in Akan 
and the usage of chop in GPE are further illustrations of 
how a substrate language has influenced a pidgin. 

Peyn The usage of "peyn" ("pain") in GPE is not 
limited to distress and suffer. It also means disturb and 
jealousy . 

A: I go sit dawn, chop kenke mek sombodi kam bit am 
B: I bi im de peyn mi. 

A: "He will sit down, eat kenkey, and let somebody 

come and beat him (talking about a boxer) " 
B: "That's what disturbs me." 

Swiyt The word "swiyt" ("sweet") has some additional 

meanings in GPE. It means "sweet", "pleasant", "nice", 

"enjoyable", "good", "swollen headed", etc. This phenomenon 


is also similar to that of the Ghanaian languages where one 

word has all the above meanings. In Akan. "de" has all the 

above meanings. Four of the meanings of "sweet" from 

recorded conversations are shown in the following examples: 

A: Onli sey, mi, ma haws no swiyt me. I bi soso a dey 

hie; layk a go l=>n taym. 

B: (JOKINGLY) Shuga no dey msayd y3 haws, a sey . .? 

A: (LAUGHING) Shuga no dey ma haws. 

B: (LAUGHING) A si. 

A: Soso ristri shins en e hoo l^t z>f . . 

B: Demdem. 

A: "It's only that my house isn't enjoyable . That's 

why I am here. I would have gone long time." 

B: (JOKINGLY) "Is there no sugar in your house?" 

A: (LAUGHING) "There is no sugar in my house." 

B: (LAUGHING) "I see." 

A: "Many restrictions and a whole lot of . . " 

B: "Things." 

A: Yu rimimba D.K. Poison? 

B : Hmm . 

A: Wey i go kam wey dem de sin . . 

B: Dem de mek am . . in hed go swiyt am. 

A: Yu si oo. 

B: in hed go swiyt am. I bi humal bin. 

A: "Do you remember D.K. Poison?" 

B: "Yes." 

A: "When he returned (from winning a boxing 

championship) people were singing . . " 
B: "They made him become swollen headed ." 
A: "You see!" 
B: "Yes he would become swollen headed . He's a human 

being. " 

Lecturer Amoako i no yus; i bi ticha Amoako wey i 
swiyt . 

"Lecturer Amoako isn't good. It's teacher Amoako that 
is nice/appropriate . " 

S=>m polisman tuu i dey de wey i kam; i kam as de mata 
wey a t^k, den i sey oo ma mata i swiyt . 

"There was a policeman who came and asked me about the 
case. When I told him he said my case was good." 


Kwench The meaning of "kwench" ("quench") is "put out" 

or "extinguish", but in GPE this meaning is extended to 

include "stop" and "suffer". 

A no sabi dc tin wey i kwe nch di s program. A no sabi 
de risin way dey kwench am. 

"I don't know the thing that stopped this program. I 
don't know the reason why they stopped it." 

Mek yu no won oo 

Wan dey, wan dey wi =d go enjoy, 

en de rich pipul dey go kwench . 

"Don't worry 

One day, we'll all enjoy, 

And the rich people will suffer . " 

If yu no yus yo hed, yu go kwench . 

"If you don't use your brains, you'll suffer . " 

Jelosi go sheym, 
Wayo tuu go kwench . 

"The jealous one will be ashamed, 
The trickster too will suffer ." 

Kach Other meanings that "kach" ("catch") has in GPE 

are "be at", "reach", and "enough". 

Tumorow a fo kach Accra. 

"Tomorrow I should be in Accra." 

A: Tuu kach ? 

B: Tuu no kach ; rimeynin sis minis wey tuu go kach . 

A: "Is it two?" 

B: "It is not two; it is six minutes more when it'll 
be two . " 

De skoiaship seketenet, dey go pey de balans. De Iowa 
pipul rayt bak sey i no rich , i no kach . bi kos wey a no 
ripot fo August 1st. nu, den dem go tek dem awod. 

"The scholarship secretariat went and paid the balance. 
The Iowa people wrote back that it is not enough, and 


if I don't report by August 1st. they will take their 
award back. " 

Grow When a GPE speaker tells you that you are a grown 
person he or she means you are an old person. 

De womal i grow ? I grow pas Doggie? 

"Is the woman old? Is she older than Doggie?" 

I grow smo. i mek ova teti . 

"He/She is a little old. He/she is over thirty." 

Yus Another meaning of "yus" ("use") in GPE apart from 
its traditional meanings is "good" or "nice". 

Fes taym wey wi de pey nayn f i f ti -eit nu a, a ti nk sey 
1 yus; bik^s naw wi de pey omos fayf handred sidis, 
wey, dat's f^ lojm alown; wey a ti nk sey i no yus . 
Dey de chit wi. 

"First time when we were paying nine fifty-eight, I 
think that it was good, because now we are paying 
almost five hundred cedis which is for lodging; lodging 
alone, which I think that it is not good. They are 
cheating us." 

Rap In GPE, "rap" means "to talk to somebody to 
convince him or her". A man raps a woman by trying to woo 
her; or an offender raps his or her boss to avoid 
punishment. in the following example, some students were 
late in returning to school, and two other students are 
discussing the plight of these latecomers. 

A: Mi, a ti nk sey if yu go kam a, i tuu i bi fada so 
de problem wey i mek yu che nu a, yu rap am wey i 
mek genun a, a fil sey i go fit kz>nsi da yu. 

B: Haw kam dat yu figa sey 33 dis pipul go fit go 

stan in skin wey dey de go rap am wan wan wan. 

A: "For me I think that if you go and come; he too 
he s a father; so the problem that made you late 
if you tell him and it is genuine, I fell he'll be 
able to consider you." 


B: "How do you think all these people will go and 

stand by him to talk to him one after the other?" 

Words from Other Languages 

English supplies the bulk of the vocabulary of GPE. A 
few loan words have been borrowed other languages. Among 
the European languages, Portuguese is a major contributor to 
the loan words in GPE. Some of these Portuguese words are 
sabj. (know) , pikin (a child) , dash (gift, give a present) , 
and palava/palaba (guarrel) . 

GPE contains words from other West African languages, 
especially Hausa and Yoruba. Some of the words from Yoruba 
are aga (master, superior) , and ovibo (a white man or a 
light-skinned person) . There are more words from Hausa than 
from Yoruba because many Ghanaians speak Hausa, whereas only 
a few speak Yoruba. Some of the words borrowed from Hausa 
are wayo (tricks, trickster), vanoa or nvanoa (vanity), iara 
(bonus) , and wahala (trouble) . 

Some words in GPE come from Ghanaian native languages; 
from Akan are die (as for ...), paa (very), koraa (even), na 
(and, it's), etc; and from Ga is cho (very). 

We have used phonemic orthography as much as possible 
in this work. There are two main reason for this: l. to 
make it easier for those who want to write GPE to have a 
writing system, and 2. to make people aware that GPE is a 
different language from standard English. This will help 
the users know the situational usages of both languages. 

We have discussed the linguistics structure of the 
Ghanaian Pidgin English in this chapter. Though the 
vocabulary of GPE is mostly English, its phonological system 
is highly influenced by that of the Ghanaian languages, 
especially Akan. The qualities of the consonants and the 
vowels are in line with those of the Ghanaian languages 
instead of standard English. Phonemic tones which are 
characteristics of Kwa languages are found in GPE. Vowel 
harmony is also part of the phonological system of GPE. 
Morphologically, the general inflection system in GPE is 
very limited. The major morphological process in GPE is 
reduplication which is used to denote plurality, frequency, 
intensity, and functional shift. Compounding of words is 
another GPE morphological process. Syntactically, GPE does 
not follow Bickerton's classical TMA system, because GPE 
does not have TENSE; it is aspect-prominent instead of 
tense-prominent. GPE also contains irrealis and conditional 
moods. Its syntax is influenced by those of the native 
Ghanaian languages. Semantically, some of the English words 
in GPE have acquired additional or differnt meanings. There 
are calgues that have been made from the Ghanaian languages. 
Some GPE words that have been borrowed from Portuguese, 
Yoruba, Hausa, and some of the Ghanaian languages have 
maintained their oirginal meanings. We have used phonemic 
orthography to differentiate GPE from standard English. 


1. There is an ongoing controversy on the status of fa 
("for") in English-based pidgins and Creoles. It is not 
clear that f_3 is behaving as a modal in all cases. 



I discussed the linguistic details of Ghanaian Pidgin 
English in the previous chapter. This has helped 
substantiate the assertion that pidgin is spoken in Ghana. 
This chapter is a further contribution to the demonstration. 
I will use the data from the guestionnaire as well as the 
answers of informants who were interviewed during the 
research to discuss (1) the speakers of Ghanaian Pidgin 
English (GPE) ; (2) the places where the language is spoken; 
(3) the spoken and written uses of the language; and (4) 
people's attitude toward it. But before we discuss the 
above issues, we should familiarize ourselves with the 
meaning of the concept "sociolinguistics" since this is the 
branch of linguistics that deals with what is to be 

Sociolinguistics is that part of linguistics which is 

concerned with language as a social and cultural phenomenon; 

it investigates the field of language and society (Trudgill 

1984:32). Fasold has given a more detailed definition of 

sociolinguistics : 

It is obvious that language is supposed to be used for 
transmitting information and thoughts from one person 



to another. At the same time, however, the speaker is 
using language to make statements about who she is, 
what her group loyalties are, how she perceives her 
relationship to her hearer, and what sort of speech 
event she considers herself to be engaged in. The two 
tasks (communicating information and defining the 
social situation) can be carried out simultaneously 
precisely because language varies - speakers can choose 
among alternative linguistic means, any of which would 
satisfactorily communicate the propositional 
information. It is the selection among these 
alternatives that defines the social situation. The 
study of the interplay between these two facts about 
language is exactly sociolinguistics. (Fasold 1984:3) 

Fishman defines sociolinguistics as "the study of the 
characteristics of language varieties, the characteristics 
of their functions, and the characteristics of their 
speakers as these three constantly interact, change, and 
change one another within a speech community" (Fishman 
1970:4) . 

Speakers and Places of Ghanaian Pidgin English 

In this section I will discuss the current speakers of 
Ghanaian Pidgin English and places where it is spoken. 
Table 5.1 illustrates the number of respondents who have or 
have not spoken the language. It shows the answers given by 
our respondents to the guestion "Have you spoken pidgin 
English before?". The total number of respondents to the 
survey was 304. All of them answered this guestion. Figure 
5.1 is a further illustration of the answers to the same 
guestion. Most of them (81.6%) said that they had spoken 
GPE before. Only 18.4% said they had not spken GPE before. 



Table 5.1 
Have You Spoken Ghanaian Pidgin English? 


No Response 





Have You Spoken Pidgin English? 



H 200 


< 160 


Z 50 

no. s.i 






Figure 5.1. Have You Spoken Pidgin English? 

The high percentage of respondents saying they have 
spoken Ghanaian Pidgin English might be due to our selection 
procedure. To compensate for any possible skewing, the 
informants were asked if they had heard other Ghanaians 
speaking Pidgin English. Of the 304 respondents, 301 
answered "Yes" to that guestion. Table 5.2 and figure 5.2 

illustrate this. 

Table 5.2 
Have Heard Ghanaians Speak Pidgin English 




No Response Total 
3 304 

(1.0%) (100%) 


Heard Ghanaians Speak Pidgin English? 





09 250 





2 160 


O 100- 


T go- 


o » 

Fid 5.2 


Figure 5.2. Heard Ghanaians Speak Pidgin English? 

The next issue to be considered is the type of people 
who speak Ghanaian Pidgin English. In the survey, 
informants were reguested to mark who they think speak 
Pidgin English in Ghana, and where. Names of the people and 
places were provided, and informants were reguested to add 
their own observations. Table 5.3 shows the types of 
people, and table 5.4 shows the places where it is spoken. 
The numbers on these tables represesnt the number of times a 
particular category was selected by the informants. The 
percentages have been calculated by comparing the numbers 
with the total of respondents which is 3 04. Figures 5.3 and 
5.4 are further illustrations of these facts. 


Table 5.3 
"Who Speaks Pidgin English?" Affirmative Responses 




















































Gov't. Officials Traders 
20 173 

(6.6%) (56.9%) 




Male Soldiers Female Soldiers 
247 93 

(81.3%) (30.6%) 

Border Guards Navy Men 
211 108 

(69.4%) (35.5%) 

* Others 

* Others include watchmen, laborers, prostitutes, seaport 
workers, ship's crew, stewards, bookmen or vehicle loaders, 
bandsmen and comedians, prisoners and prison officials, fire 
service workers, currency traffickers, and miners. 


Speakers of Ghanaian Pidgin English 



















tM 1 


no. 53 


Figure 5.3 

Speakers of Ghanaian Pidgin English 

Note : A=Students, B=Pol icemen, C=Male Soldiers, D=Co- 
Workers, E=Males, F=Drivers, G=Friends, H=Border Guards, 
I=Youngsters, J=Age Mates, K=Traders, L=Females, 
M=Policewomen, N=Navy Men, 0=Female Soldiers, P=Teachers, 
Q=Farmers, R=Others, S=Family, T=Masters, U=Elders, 
V=Tutors, W=Government Officials, X= Lecturers, Y=Priests. 


Table 5.4 
"Where Is Pidgin English Spoken?" Affirmative Responses 

























Big Towns 


Rural Areas 







Lorry Stations 










Enterta inment 






Play- Military/Police Army/Police Radio 

Grounds Depot Barracks Ghana 

157 181 190 46 

(51.6%) (59.5%) (62.5%) (15.1%) 

* Others 

* Others include markets, railway stations, hotels, shops, 
beaches, and prisons. 


Ghanaian Pidgin English Speaking Places 



►" 200 


H 16 ° 


< 100 


» 50 

HQ. 5.4 


IS88 N 


Figure 5.4. Ghanaian Pidgin English Speaking Places 

Note : A=Lorry Stations, B=Streets, C=Dr inking Bars, 
D=Schools, E=Cinema Houses, F=Universities, G=Work Places, 
H=Big Towns, I=Army/Police Barracks, J=Dances, 
K=Entertainment Places, L=Military/Police depot, M=Borders, 
N=Playgrounds, 0=Urban Centers, P=Harbors, Q=Parties, 
R=Homes, S=Airports, T=Villages, U=Rural Areas, V=Radio 
Ghana, W=Others, X=Mosques, Y=Churches. 

Age Groups 

Ghanaian Pidgin English is currently the language of 
the youth; for whereas younger people scored 68.1% (Table 
5.4) their elders had only 12.8%. The few older people who 
use pidgin English say they use it mostly for essential 
communication purposes. It is just a few of them who use it 
for fun. The younger generation have many reasons why they 
use it. This will be discussed later on in this chapter. 
Male and Female Speakers 

Respondents to the questionnaire claim that both males 
and females speak Ghanaian Pidgin English, but there are 

more male (76.3%) speakers than female speakers (46. 0%) . 
Based on the questionnaire, this ratio is also seen in the 
police and the armed forces, where Pidgin English is used on 
a large scale. Whereas 83.6% of the respondents marked that 
they have heard policemen speak pidgin English, 43.1% marked 
that they have heard policewomen speak it; and whereas male 
soldiers obtained 81.3%, the female soldiers received only 


Based on the responses from our questionnaire, it can 
be seen from Tables 5.3 and 5.4 that police speak pidgin 
more than soldiers, border guards, and navy people. This is 
so because the respondents have closer contacts with the 
police than with the others. 

Table 5 . 5 represents further data suggesting that there 

are more male speakers of the language than female. The 

informants were requested to mark the sex group that speaks 

pidgin the more. This is further illustrated by Figure 5.5. 

Table 5.5 
Sex Group That Speaks Pidgin English The More 

Male Female No Response Indifferent 

281 3 17 3 

(92.4%) (1.0%) (5.6%) (1.0%) 

The reason for fewer female speakers of the language 
stems from the attitude Ghanaian women have toward the 
language. The Ghanaian females tend to prefer the more 
elegant form of a language. More reasons will be given when 
we discuss people's attitude towards the language. 


Sex That Speaks Pidgin English More 


>. 250 


T> 150H 


p 100 









Figure 5.5. Sex that Speaks Pidgin English More 


In general, teachers do not like to speak or hear 
others speak pidgin English because they see themselves as 
the custodians of standard English. But for some other 
reasons which will be seen later, some teachers speak this 
language. 'Teachers' in this sense include university 
lecturers, technical college tutors, and elementary school 
teachers. As one moves up from elementary school teachers 
through university lecturers, the percentage of pidgin 
English users falls. This means the level of education of 
the teachers is also a factor in the spread of pidgin 
English. Normally, university graduates do not teach in the 
elementary schools of Ghana. They teach in the second cycle 

Family Members and Friends 

Ghanaian Pidgin English is not a language spoken among 
members of a family. Parents do not want to hear their 
children speak it for the fear that it will affect their use 
of the standard English. This might be the reason why 
family scored only 22.6% (Table 5.4). Instead, the language 
is spoken among friends of the same age group. They say 
this is so because they use it mainly for fun and 
solidarity. Friends use it among themselves, and if a 
member of a peer group that uses GPE is not able to 
communicate in that language, he is not considered as a 
member. This person will learn how to use GPE if he wants 
to be a member of the peer group. Some groups develop their 
own slang which helps to bring solidarity to the group and 
exclude other people who do not belong to it. 
Traders and Farmers 

One might expect a higher percentage than 56.9% for 
traders as speakers of GPE, because trade brings together 
people who speak different languages and pidgin might be 
expected to emerge. Trade in Ghana is more localized hence 
the traders tend to use one of the Ghanaian native languages 
instead of pidgin. It is mostly in the urban areas that 
pidgin English is used at times. 

Most Ghanaian farmers are illiterates, and they are 
among people who speak their own language. Hence, it is on 
rare occasions that one hears them speaking English. The 

24.3% who are reported to use GPE represents a few semi- 
literate farmers or school-dropouts who have taken to 
farming. Included in this group are literate absentee farm 
owners who communicate with farm workers with a different 
native language. 
Ordinary Workers 

Co-workers on table 5.4 was chosen by 77.0% of our 
respondents as a group that uses GPE. The percentage is high 
because these include mainly lower and a few middle class 
workers in the factories, governmental ministries and 
departments. It is here that we find the bulk of the 
unskilled and semi-skilled labor force. As most of them 
have low educational background, pidgin English is the 
language they use mostly if they are not using a Ghanaian 
native language. Some of these workers use pidgin English 
to show that they can also speak English. It does not 
matter to them whether it is standard or not. 
Government Officials 

Government officials are, as a general rule, highly 
educated. They usually deal with people who can speak 
standard English and hence are not compelled to use pidgin. 
They also have interpreters to translate standard English 
into the native languages if the need arises. This is why 
only 6.6% of the respondents claimed that government 
officials are speakers of pidgin. 



"Driver" in this survey means a chauffeur. Ghana has 

more drivers who transport people and goods for hire than 

people who operate their own vehicles for personal use. 

Most drivers have low educational background and come in 

contact with many people who speak different languages. 

Hence, to communicate with their passengers, they tend to 

speak pidgin. That is why "drivers" was chosen by such a 

high percentage (72.4%) of our respondents as being a group 

that uses GPE (Table 5.3). This is also the reason why 

lorry stations (Table 5.4) is slightly higher than that of 

the drivers because other people, apart from drivers, are 

heard speaking pidgin at the lorry stations. The lorry 

stations are also used as markets where different things are 

sold to the passengers. Sometimes a person may not be 

travelling but will go to the lorry station to look for 

something to buy or eat. An informant had this to say: 

The lorry stations are the producers of this pidgin 
English because there are so many people there; and you 
don't know the people, and you don't know what language 
to speak to them. 


Priests or religious ministers of the religious groups 

in Ghana do not speak pidgin. They normally use the local 

Ghanaian languages. Standard English is used only if the 

priest, pastor, or preacher does not speak the local 

language of the congregation, and an interpreter translates 

it. This is why only 1% of our respondents claimed that 

priests use GPE and only 2% said that churches are places 
where GPE is spoken (Tables 5.3 and 5.4). Churches scored 
slightly higher than priests because some interviewees said 
that while they do not speak pidgin in the chapel, they do 
so on the church premises with their friends rather than 
with priests or pastors. 

From Table 5.3 it can be seen that students are claimed 
to be the largest group (84.5%) of Ghanaian Pidgin English 
speakers. Schools also received 73.7% on Table 5.4. The 
main reason is the fashion in Ghana that if one is a student 
then one should know how to speak pidgin in order to be 
accepted as a member of the student community. For example, 
I made an effort to learn pidgin English when I entered the 
university. My roommate used to tease me that my spoken 
pidgin English was not perfect at that time. This is also 
illustrated in a short story about students 1 behavior in 
Ghanaian secondary schools that appeared in one of the 
Ghanaian weekly newspapers. The title of the story was 
•THE SLEDGE BROTHERS: Pidgin was their language, bullying 
their habit; and they had no time for their books. • The 

beginning of the story shows that Pidgin is the language of 
the students. 

It was the day for the re-opening for the second 
term of the academic year, and at Astor Secondary 
School, in Accra, a group of students known as the 
Sledge Brothers couldn't help hailing their friend, 


Akpatse Sledge whom they had been waiting for since 

"Akpatse; Sledge Akpatse; Jah Jah Akpatse!" they 
shouted as they rushed out to meet him. Eight form one 
boys were called to carry his trunk whilst another 
eight carried his mattress to the dormitory. 

"But Charley why you keep long for house so?" 
Lugu asked in the dormitory. 

"Ho, but I no be kid wey I for come school six 
a.m. on re-opening day. 

"Weytin you want talk?" Toyas guest ioned. "You 
want mean say we wey we come quick be kids?" 

(The Mirror, 1984:6) 


1 Others ■ on Table 5.3, which was chosen as a category 
of GPE users by 24.0% of our respondents, includes those 
groups of people which the informants added to the list 
provided on the questionnaires. These include watchmen, 
laborers, prostitutes, seaport workers, ships' crew, 
stewards, vehicle loaders (also known as bookmen) , bandsmen 
and comedians, currency dealers, and miners. All the 
respondents who mentioned prisoners and prison officers were 
prison officers themselves and thus were in a position to 
know what goes on within the prison yard. 

Most of the informants mentioned watchmen or security 
guards. Watchmen are mostly former service personnel who 
have left the armed forces. Some are also lower working 
class people with little or no formal education who are 
part-time watchmen. Their work usually brings them in 
contact with speakers of standard English, and the only 
English they know is pidgin. This is illustrated in a novel 
by Ayi Kwei Armah, where he quotes a watchman who had 


recognized one of the ministers of the Nkrumah regime trying 

to escape when the regime was toppled by a military coup. 

You tink say ah no sabe. Ah sabe sey you be 
Nkrumah party man. You no fit pass (Armah 
1969:173) . 

"You think that I don't know. I know that you are 
a member of Nkrumah' s party. You cannot pass by." 

We should note that there is statistically significant 
correlation coefficient between the speakers and places of 
GPE. When we used the Spearman rank order correlation to 
test the null hypothesis of no significant relationship, the 
results were significant at p<.Ol. 1 The observed statistic 
value was .80. This shows that there is 99 percent 
probability that the observed relationship between the two 
variables, speakers and places, did not occur by chance or 
accident. We chose the Spearman rank order correlation test 
because it is this test that allows us to use ranks instead 
of the actual scores, the actual scores of our data do not 
have interval scales which other tests like the Pearson rho 
and t-test demand. 

Uses of Ghanaian Pidgin English 

This section deals with the different usages of the 
Ghanaian Pidgin English. A major concern is the mode of 
usage, that is, whether spoken or written. 
Written Usage 

Table 5.6 shows the number of respondents who indicated 
that they have written Pidgin English before. 


Table 5.6 
Writers of Ghanaian Pidgin English 







No Response 



Table 5.6 suggests that Ghanaian Pidgin English is not 
used in a written mode: 84.2% of the respondents indicated 
that they have never written the language before, and only 
15.1% said that they have done so. Figure 5.6 is a further 
illustration of the use of GPE in the written mode. 

Have You Written Pidgin English? 




H 200 











FIG. 5« 

Figure 5.6. Have You Written Pidgin English? 
Literature . There is not much written literature in 
Ghanaian Pidgin English. No book has been written in only 
Ghanaian Pidgin English. Ghanaian writers write in either 
one of the native languages or standard English. Generally, 
writers who use the Ghanaian native languages do not write 
Pidgin English in their books. 


Writers who write in standard English sometimes include 

passages to represent the speech of a character. For 

example, Kofi Anyidoho (1985a: 88) quoted in one of his poems 

an illiterate moslem from the Northern Region of Ghana who 

used pidgin English in a treason trial in the 1960s. The 

moslem had attempted to assassinate the first president of 

Ghana by throwing a bomb at him. When the president died in 

exile, there was a debate on whether Ghanaians should go for 

his remains or not. In a poetic way the writer has the 

character speak pidgin English when the latter was invited 

as a witness: 

Salaam aleikum 

Me I be Malam 

And Malam no fit tell lie 

Some bigi bigi men - You sabe dem name - 

Dey dey for back 

Dey put Malam for flont 

Dey put hot bomb for Malam pocket 

So dey push Malam 

and push Malam 

and push Malam 
Now see which side Malam dey! 
Our Bigi Man the Masita imsef 
The one who now idie 
Me I say e be stron man proper 
Dat bomb we trow ino fit kill am 

Some bugabuga mans come take Malam for contaback 
De bigi bigi afraidmens dem all run away 
But the Bigi masita imsef icatchi dem sharp sharp 
he put dem all for detention 
So today me I stand I say 
Lak somebody tell you say 
our masita imhead strong too mush 
iputu plenty peoplo for detention for notin 
Me I tell you say dat man imhead ino collect 
All dem be lie lie tief men 
Ibi so so chop chop dem wan chop 
And derefore lak you ass me jus now 
Wetin we go do Bigi Masita and imdead body? 
I go say make you bringam home one tarn 
Me alone I fit digi bigi hole and buryiam proper 


Palaver finis 

Ibe mea. Malam Mama Tulale. 
(Anyidoho, 1985:88) 

"Peace be with you 

I am a moslem 

And a moslem cannot tell a lie 

Some big men - you know their names - 

They were behind 

They sent Malam in front 

They put a deadly bomb in Malam 's back pocket 

So they pushed Malam 

and pushed Malam 

and pushed Malam 
Now see where Malam is: (prison) 
Our Big Man, the Master himself 
The one who is now dead 
I say he was a very strong man 
That bomb we threw couldn't kill him 
Some police escorts came for Malam 
placed him at counterback (jail) 
The coward big men, they all ran away 
But the Big Master himself, he caught them at once 
He put all of them in detention 
So standing here today, I say 
if somebody tells you that 

Our Master's head was too much strong (he was cruel) 
he put a lot of prominent people in detention 
for nothing 

I tell you that man's head isn't correct (he's crazy) 
They are all liars and thieves 
It is only sguandering that they want to do 
And so, if you ask me just now 

What thing we will do to the Big Master's dead body? 
I will say bring it home one time (at once) 
I alone can dig a big hole and bury him well 
The trouble is finished (There is no problem) 
It is me, Malam Tulale" 

Anyidoho (1985b) has written another poem in GPE in 

another book, A Harvest of our Dreams . This time it was a 

personal letter he wrote to a long time friend. When we 

interviewed Anyidoho, who is an English professor at the 

University of Ghana, why he had written these GPE poems, he 

said, in the case of the illiterate moslem, that is the only 

type of English that the character can speak. He said he 

wrote the GPE poetic letter to his friend to show the 
intimacy between them. They have been friends for a long 
time, and even though they speak the same language, Ewe, 
they use GPE when, in his own words, "it comes to matters of 
intimacy. " 

The use of such written Ghanaian Pidgin English in 
books is rare. We find Anyidoho's first GPE poem as one out 
of sixty-two poems in that book and on one page out of 122. 
His poetic letter to his friend is also one out of sixty-six 
poems in that book. Another instance occurs in Ayi Kwei 
Armah's (1968) novel The Beautvful Ones Are Not Yet Born , 
with Pidgin English found on eight pages out of 180. 

When a former Ghana secretary for culture and tourism, 

who is also a writer and a university professor, was asked 

why he would write GPE in his works, this is how he 


Incidentally, I happen to be a writer; and every writer 
is looking for new avenues of expression. So, to me, 
the pidgin language is one of the most expressive; it's 
much closer to our way of life and our expressions, our 
sensibilities, and our feelings, than the standard 
English, (I personally interviewed Mr. Asiedu-Yirenkyi 
with a tape recorder) . 

Entertainment . The written usage normally found in 
magazines appears in cartoons. In recent years these GPE 
cartoons are gaining popularity among the reading public 
because of the current popularity of pidgin. 

The cartoonist of the three most popular pidgin English 
cartoons in Ghana, "Mugu Yaro", "Gyato", and "Baba Dogo" , 


said that he at first used standard English. He then 

realized that not all the readers who were interested in 

cartoons could read standard English. He, therefore, 

changed to pidgin. People began to buy the magazines more 

than they used to when the language was standard English. 

Mugu Yaro, the major character of one of the cartoons, is 

now a household name in Ghana, especially in the big towns. 

Mugu Yaro was quoted on the research questionnaire (Appendix 

A) to indicate to the informants what is meant by Ghanaian 

Pidgin English. 

I no be kid wey dey go fit catch me; 
who go fit catch Yaro? 
Walahi ! dey no go fit da. 

"I am not a child that they can catch me; 

who can catch Yaro? 

I swear! they can never." 

Walahi is a Hausa word for "I swear" and da is an Akan word 

for "never". Extracts from Mugu Yaro, Gyato, and Baba Dogo 

can be found in Appendix E. 

Newspapers . Once a while, GPE appears in the 

newspapers. A journalist and reporter of a Ghanaian 

newspaper said if one is quoting a watchman who speaks 

pidgin English, one has to quote him in that language. The 

professional ethics and techniques of journalism allow this. 

It makes a better impact and gives the readers what the man 

actually said. It also serves to break out what journalists 

call the "stiff language approach" to journalism. I came 

across the journalist's observation when I graded an English 


paper by an examinee of the West African Examinations 

Council. In the following quotation from the candidate's 

paper, pira . boa , kwa , and hunahuna , are Akan words which 

mean "hurt", "help", "just", and "threaten" respectively. 

Unfortunately we heard a sudden noise. It was the 
school watchman, "hei! if you move, I go pira you". I 
was shaken so I shouted, "Watchman, I no dey among oo. 
I came to boa them kwa. Ah! it was Jakadu, Nana Oku 
and Siboree who hunahuna me oo, watch-tch-tch-m-ma -ma- 
man ! ! " 

"Unfortunately we heard a sudden noise. It was the 
school watchman, "hei! if you move, I will hurt you". 
I was shaken so I shouted, "Watchman, I am not among 
them. I just came to help them. Ah! it was Jakadu, 
Nana Oku and Siboree who threatened me, watchman!!" 

Writings on vehicles . Some Ghanaians express 

themselves in GPE by writing GPE on their vehicles, 

especially lorries and buses which are used to convey 

passengers. Some of such expressions are: "One Man No 

Chop", "God Dey", "Sea Never Dry", "Do Me I Do You", and 

"Jealousy Go Shame". "One Man No Chop" literally means "A 

person does not eat alone". Its actual meaning is that we 

should all work together and enjoy the fruit of our labor 

together. "God Dey" literally means "God is always 

available". Its actual meaning is that once God exists his 

providence is always available and that he will help both 

the poor and the rich to survive. "Sea Never Dry" is used 

to show how strong someone is. It is a simile denoting a 

person's power and immortality like the sea. "Do Me I Do 

You" means "If you hurt me I will retaliate". "Jealousy Go 

Shame" means "Any person who is jealous of another person 
will be disgraced or put to shame. 

Spoken Usage 
Ghanaian Pidgin English is far more a spoken mode than 
a written one. As we saw from Table 5.1, 81.6% of the 
respondents to the survey said they have spoken the language 
before, whereas only 15.1% said they have written it. 
Figure 5.7 and Table 5.7 illustrate the difference. 

Comparing Spoken and Written Modes 



H 200 








FIG. 5.7 



Figure 5.7. Comparing Spoken and Written Modes 

Table 5.7. Comparing the Spoken and Written Modes of G.P.E. 



No Response 

Spoken GPE 
248 81.6% 
56 18.4% 

Written GPE 

46 15.1% 

256 84.2% 

2 0.7% 

Out of 3 04 respondents, 276 (90.8%) responded to the 
question "Why do you think people speak Pidgin English in 
Ghana?". Their answers have been grouped into three main 


categories: (Table 5.8) a. because it helps communication; 

b. because pidgin English is simpler than standard English; 

c. because pidgin English has become fashionable in Ghana 
and speakers use it as a means of socialization and 


Table 5.8 
Reasons for Speaking Ghanaian Pidgin English 




Simplicity of 
Pidgin English 

and Fun 

Reasons for Speaking G.P.E. 




HO. 5.8 

Figure 5.8. Reasons for Speaking G.P.E. 

It can be seen from Table 5.8 and Figure 5.8 that, as 
for any other language, communication is the major purpose 
for the use of pidgin English in Ghana. When people from 
different language groups meet and do not have a common 
language, they must use pidgin English if some of them have 


low educational background. This usage will depend upon the 

type of people in the conversation. For example, a social 

worker who comes from the Volta Region of Ghana and speaks 

Ewe said he speaks GPE with the people he works with because 

they do not understand his language and he does not 

understand Dagbani or Hausa, the languages spoken in the 

Northern Region of Ghana where he works. Two workers of the 

Institute of Adult Education, a university bursar, a 

president of a Student Representative Council and other 

interviewees agreed that whenever they are dealing with 

lower class labor force they use GPE to facilitate 


As another example, a speaker used GPE at a New Year 

School (explained in chapter 3) during his speech. When he 

was asked why he had used pidgin English, he had this to 


Yes I have to speak pidgin English because not all 
participants have formal education. Others have 
informal education. Others haven't been to school at 
all but they just pick this English as what we call 
pidgin English. So to make everybody feel at home, at 
times I must jokingly speak the pidgin English and then 
to crack some jokes just to make the thing lively (Mr. 
Hunnour T. K. Bobobee, a fisherman, and native of Bator 
in the Volta Region of Ghana) 

Simplicity of GPE 

Many speakers of Ghanaian Pidgin English say that they 

speak it because it has a very simple grammar. Out of the 

304 guestionnaires, 44.2% respondents said that they 

communicate in GPE because of its simplicity. They often 

say that the speaker does not need to follow the rigid rules 
of phonology and syntax of any particular language, for 
instance, standard English. They say the speaker's aim is 
to make the message communicative. We do not agree with 
this idea because GPE has its syntactic as well as 
phonological rules. What has made the respondents think 
that GPE does not reguire any strict syntactic or 
phonological rules is that these rules are similar to those 
of the Ghanaian languages which the speakers are familiar 
Socialization and Fun 

About forty percent (39.9%) of the speakers surveyed 
say they speak GPE to be accepted into a group that speaks 
the language. This usage of Ghanaian Pidgin English is for 
socialization, and fun. GPE is spoken as a solidarity 
language. This is so because the speakers have one or two 
of the Ghanaian languages in common that they can use but 
they choose to use GPE as one of their registers to show the 
solidarity among them. This usage will depend upon the 
speakers, the topic and the situation. The solidarity usage 
of GPE is prominent among the youth especially the male 
students . 

When a female teacher in one of the high schools in 
Ghana was asked whether there are any rules in her school 
prohibiting the students from speaking GPE, and whether the 

students were punished if they spoke GPE, this is how she 


Well there are no rules as such. We just try to 
convince them not to, because we find that whether 
there are rules or not, whether they are punished or 
not, they still continue speaking it. They look upon 
it as a form of fashionable way of speaking, (Miss 
Mable Komasi, a secondary school teacher) 


It is not only in discourse that Ghanaian Pidgin 
English is used as an important means of communication. 
Apart from using it on political platforms once in a while, 
Ghanaian politicians use the language in sending radio 
messages to the people. The tactic became very prominent in 
the revolutionary era of the nation, which began in June 
1979, when many of the youths became involved in politics. 
The following is a typical example, which was aired on Radio 
Ghana as a signature tune to one of the revolutionary 
programs . 





Ghana people make we wake up, 

Make we fight for our right. 


We no go sit down 

Make dem cheat we everyday 

Ghana workers make we wake up 
Make we fight for our right 


Ghana fishermen make we wake up, 
Make we fight for our right 


• ••••• 









Once again time with the PDCs and you're welcomed. 
Stay tuned in for the next twenty-five minutes for your 
program "The People's Revolutionary Program". 

The above can be paraphrased as: "Ghanaian people, let 
us wake up and fight for our rights. We will not sit down 
and let them cheat us everyday." ( Daabida is an Akan word 
for "no" or "never", and walahi is a Hausa word for "I 
swear" . ) 

Telling jokes . Ghanaian Pidgin English is used for 
entertainment in the spoken mode in the areas of music and 
telling jokes. People tell jokes in GPE because they say 
that makes it funnier than telling it in standard English. 
But one thing about these comedians is that most of them 
have low educational backgrounds so it is easier for them to 
tell their jokes in GPE instead of telling them in standard 
English. Members of a comedian group called Osofo Dadzie 
use Akan language but once a while they will use GPE. 

Music . All the Ghanaian musicians who have been 
interviewed say that they sing in pidgin English in order to 

send their message not only to Ghanaians but also to people 
in other English speaking countries. They also say that 
they want their messages to be understood by both listeners 
who can and those who cannot understand standard English. 
One of them said: 

wan tin abawt Pidgin English in Ghana hie, in Afrika; 
sey, Ghanaian myuzishiens lak dis, most =>f de rek=>ds 
wey dey do, wi no go bi lak dem, so wi tuu f=> fal awa 
own wey. Awa own wey tuu bi, sey, Twi = brokin so dat 
pipul, most =>f de Af ri kan pipul, Afrikan English 
k=>ntn wey dey spik brokin, dey tuu dey go andastan; 
bik^s as yu no, sey plenti pipul no go skuul bat 
brokin di e dey fit andastan. (Source: personal 
interview of Mr. Ernest Sarfo-Baidoo, alias Afro Moses, 
of the "Third Eye" Band) 

"One thing about Pidgin English in Ghana or in Africa, 
say, Ghanaian musicians like this, most of the European 
records which they do, we will not be like them; so we 
must find our own way. Our own way is Twi or broken 
(Pidgin English) so that most of the African people, 
English speaking African countries where they speak 
broken, they too, they will understand; because as 
you know many people haven't gone to (attended) school, 
but they can understand broken (Pidgin English) . ( Die 
is Akan word for "as for") . 

Another musician who shares the same idea of communicating 

to more people by using GPE in his songs further said that 

this is his aim that is why in one song, "Yellow Tsitsi", he 

sang the same message in Akan, Ewe, Yoruba, Hausa, standard 

English, and GPE. There are other Ghanaian musicians who 

deliver the same message in different languages including 

GPE in one song. 

It is not only the musicians who express the idea of 

communicating to wider audience as their main reason of 

using GPE in their songs. When an elderly headteacher of an 


elementary school who vehemently opposes the use of GPE was 
asked why he thinks old musicians of his age would sing in 
GPE, he expressed the same reason of communicating to a 
wider audience. Since the interview with this headteacher 
summarizes what many people would say about why the Ghanaian 
musicians sing in GPE, we think it will be appropriate to 
quote part of the interview here: 

INTERVIEWER (INT) : E. T. Mensah, this Ghanaian singer 
who is now fairly old, I think he may be 50, do 
you not hear him singing in pidgin English? 

HEADTEACHER (HDT) : You see, that is his profession. 
You know he wants to put across the language of 
his music; and by that if he is able to speak 
pidgin English in the music it will be easily 
adopted by everybody, whether you speak good 
English or pidgin English; so he likes using 
pidgin English to embrace all those who either 
speak good English or pidgin English. 

INT: Apart from him, in modern times, do you hear some 
Ghanaian singers also singing in pidgin English? 

HDT: Oh yes; in fact, what you are saying is true. 
Most of them don't actually compose their music 
with very good English. They contain a lot of 
pidgin English. 

INT: Why do you think they compose in pidgin English 
instead of composing in standard English? 

HDT: One thing is: it may be the composers, their 

educational background may not be so good enough 
for them to produce some good English in their 
compositions. Then, secondly, as I've already 
indicated, they wanted their language in the music 
to be embraced and understood by those who speak 
good English and those who speak pidgin English. 
(Source: Personal interview of Mr. Enning; 
headteacher of Atomic Energy Commission 
Experimental Primary School, Kwabenya, Ghana.) 

We may wonder the type of music in which we can hear 
GPE being used. GPE is used in Ghanaian Hi-Life songs. Hi- 
Life songs are not traditional or folk songs like Adowa, 
Kete, Nnwonkoro, Font on from, Boboobo, Agbaja, Adenkum, 

Kpanlogo, and others, which are associated with particular 
ethnic groups in Ghana. Hi-Life is nonethnic. It was 
unique to Ghana, but these days it is found in some West 
African countries like Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, 
Liberia, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Togo, and Benin. 

There are two types of Hi-Life: slow Hi-Life and fast 
Hi-Life. The slow one has low-tempo beat whereas the fast 
one has up-tempo beat. It is in the fast type that GPE 
lyrics can be heard. Hi-Life songs are enjoyed by all 
Ghanaians and many people around the world, young and old, 
educated and uneducated, rural and urban, and those who like 
or dislike the use of GPE. There is no wonder why the 
musicians choose to convey their messages through Hi-Life 
and GPE lyrics. This indeed enables them to reach a wider 

People's Attitude Toward Ghanaian Pidgin English 
We requested respondents in our survey to indicate 
whether or not they like to speak pidgin English. Out of 
the 304 respondents, 96 indicated "yes". This is 36% of our 
survey. A larger number of 208, which is 68% of our survey, 
indicated "no" . This shows that many Ghanaians do not want 
to speak GPE. Table 5.9 and Figure 5.9 further explain this 

Table 5.9 
Responses to "Do You Like to Speak Pidgin English?" 

Yes % No % 

96 36% 208 68% 


Do You Like to Speak Pidgin English? 



* 200 

H 160 


* 100 



HO. 5.9 



Figure 5.9. Do You Like to Speak Pidgin English? 

We reguested our informants to give reasons for 
indicating "yes" or "no" to our guest ion "Do you like to 
speak pidgin English?" We summarized the reasons given by 
those who indicated "yes" into four categories: 
communication, simplicity and ease, solidarity and fun, and 
interesting. Of the 96 informants who said "yes", 38 
mentioned communication; 27 used simplicity and ease of 
pidgin English as their reason to like to speak GPE; 36 gave 
solidarity and fun among peer groups as their reason; and 18 
said the language sounds interesting to them. Table 5.10 
and Figure 5.10 indicate the statistics of the reasons why 
the respondents like to speak GPE. 


Table 5.10 
Reasons for Liking to Speak Ghanaian Pidgin English 

38 40% 

and Ease 
27 28% 

and Fun 
36 38% 

18 19% 

Reasons for Liking to Speak G.P.E. 





m 30 









R P. A 3 U N S 

Figure 5.10. Reasons for Liking to Speak G.P.E. 

When we look at Table 5.10, we see that there is not 

much difference between the percentages for "communication" 

and "solidarity and fun". As it has already been indicated, 

solidarity is one of the major reasons for the wide spread 

of GPE in Ghana. The following are some unedited quotations 

from our questionnaire indicating respondents 1 reasons for 

their likeness for speaking GPE. 

It affords easy expression as well as promoting 
cordiality amongst friends who are not of the same 
educational levels. Socially, one is welcomed into any 
peer group that has amusement as their goal. 


For convenience sake - to be able to communicate with 
people who do not speak polished English and do not 
speak the same Ghanaian language as me. This 
especially refers to people down the social ladder. 

I speak it because it is entertaining and the common 
language spoken among comrades. Moreover it is a 
convenient way of speaking to people who do not 
understand English very well. 

Facilitates easy communication - speaker does not think 
of the grammatical aspect of the English language. 

Majority of the people whom we surveyed, 68%, indicated 

that they do not like to speak pidgin English, Table 5.9 

above. We grouped their reasons for not being enthusiastic 

in speaking GPE into three categories; namely, adverse 

effect on standard English, lack of ability to speak GPE, 

and inappropriate language. Table 5.11 and Figure 5.11 

indicate the statistics for the respondents' reasons for 

their not wanting to speak GPE. 

Table 5.11 
Reasons for Not Wanting to Speak Ghanaian Pidgin English 

Adverse Effect Lack of Ability to Inappropriate 

on Standard Eng. Speak GPE Language 

161 77% 17 8% 47 23% 

Out of the 2 08 respondents who said they do not like to 
speak pidgin English, 77% indicated that speaking GPE has or 
will have an adverse effect on their usage of standard 
English. This is actually the major reason why Ghanaians 
oppose the usage of GPE. The following are some of the ways 
the respondents expressed themselves on this reason: 


Reasons for Not Wanting to Speak G.P.E. 





11G. 5.11 



Figure 5.11. Reasons for Not Wanting to Speak G.P.E. 

It will spoil my good English and also affect my 
writing of English. 

It can weaken the courage or confidence you've acguired 
in speaking the English language. The regular use of 
the pidgin can result in one losing the eloguence he 
has gained in the standardized English. You may lose 
the trend. 

One is usually prompted to include such language when 
writing, e.g. essays or when giving a speech. 

Because I am a student and if one day I am asked to 
write an essay I can easily write pidgin English 
without knowing. 

One will unknowingly write pidgin English in an 
examination or write it in an application and it would 
not be accepted. 

It is true that some examination candidates write GPE 

in examinations when they are writing essays or short 

compositions. As an examiner of the General Certificate of 

Education (GCE) , I came across the blend of standard English 

and pidgin English in some of the Ordinary Level ("0" Level) 
English essays I graded. The following are some few 
examples of such standard/pidgin English from the papers I 


I am in great pleasure and giving to you this account 
of standing trial on charges of gross indiscipline to 
you. Uncle how be at Mama and the children at home? 

I heard this junior saying it pains her a lot that I 
obtained majority seats of votes. 

One of our tutor come to assemble said something about 
our extra feed cost and some of our classmates say "we 
no go pay" . 

It is only 17, that is 8%, of the respondents who 

indicated that they do not like to speak GPE because they 

lack the ability to speak it. They just said they do not 

know how to speak it and they are not prepared to learn 

another language. Two of them wrote: 

I don't move in the group which speaks pidgin English. 
It's going to be a new demand on me learning new 
language habits and vocab which I don't need. 

No, because firstly I'm not fluent in it. Secondly it 
doesn't sound nice to me when ladies speak it; it's 
sort of out of place in my opinion. 

The second part of the last reason which can be 

categorized as the inappropriateness of the usage of GPE by 

some people at some particular times was expressed by 47, 

that is 23%, of our respondents as their reason for 

disliking to speak GPE. They say GPE is an inappropriate 

language; and some even go to the extent of saying that it 

is indecent and crude for ladies, teachers, respected 

people, and the educated elite. The following are some of 


the unedited quotations from the respondents who used 

inappropriateness or indecency as their reason for their 

dislikeness of GPE. 

The nature of my work does not permit me to speak 
pidgin English. Moreso, I don't belong to that age 
group that speak pidgin English most (teacher; 31 - 40 
years old) . 

As a bank official I am expected to speak better 

It is an indecent language for the educated person. 
The educated man who speaks it loses his respect in the 
eyes of their colleagues. 

The grown-ups look upon you as a ruffian. 

It does not speak well of the speaker. 

It does not fit a lady. I feel like a rascal when I 
speak it. 

It is unladylike to speak pidgin English. 

As a woman I think I have to speak standard English not 
to tarnish my reputation and status. 

Pidgin English is not a language spoken in the European 
countries. A good English man does not respect anyone 
who speaks it. As an educated person, I do not think 
it proper for such a person to speak pidgin English. 

The fact that, in Ghana, GPE is the language of the 

male and not of the female, even though some of the female 

population speak it, has been demonstrated in previous 

chapters. Tables 5.12 and 5.13 put emphasis on this notion. 

These tables which describe the ages and sex of the 

respondents according to how they responded to the question 

"Do you like to speak pidgin English?" show that more male, 

62, than female, 32, answered "yes". The male number is 

almost twice that of the female. Figure 5.12 is a summary 


of the "yes" answers. More female, 105, than male, 101, 

answered "no" to the question. The fact that there is not 

too much difference between the numbers for the "no" answer 

shows the general trend of opposition to the usage of GPE by 

both sexes. Figure 5.13 is a summary of the "no" answers. 

Table 5.12 
Age and Sex of "Yes" Respondents to "Do You Like to Speak 
Pidgin English?" 

Age (Years) 



No Response 


15 - 25 




26 - 30 





31 - 40 




41 - 50 



Over 50 

No Response 









Age and Sex of "Yes" Speakers of G.P.E 












Mm*. n° g "! 




26-30 31-40 41-60 50* NO RESP. 

Figure 5.12. Age and Sex of "Yes" Speakers of G.P.E, 


Table 5.13 
Age and Sex of "No" Respondents to "Do You Like to Speak 
Pidgin English?" 

Age (Years) 





15 - 25 




26 - 30 





31 - 40 




41 - 50 




Over 50 












and Sex of "No" Speakers of G.P.E. 





HO. 5.13 

15-25 26-30 31<40 41-60 50* MO RESP. 

A O E (Y B A R S) 

Figure 5.13. Age and Sex of "No" Speakers of G.P.E, 

Most of our respondents fall between the ages of 15 and 
25 years. There were 167 of them. Here too we see another 
indication that more male respondents than their female 
counterparts like to speak GPE. The "yes - no" ratio for 

both male and female explains this. The female "yes - no" 
ratio is 18:64 whereas the male one is 35:50. We had only 
seven respondents who fall within the "41 - 50" age bracket. 
Only one of them, who happens to be male, indicated that he 
likes to speak GPE. The remaining six consisting of three 
male and three female respondents all indicated that they do 
not like to speak GPE. Three of our respondents who are all 
male are above the age of 50. All the three indicated that 
they do not like to speak GPE. These comments and Tables 
5.12 and 5.13 are further illustrations that show that GPE 
is mostly the language of the youth nd also the language of 

We reguested our informants to indicate whether or not 
they would like to hear other people speak pidgin English, 
and Table 5.14 and Figure 5.14 show the results. 

Table 5.14 
Response to "Do You Like to Hear Others Speak Pidgin 

Yes % No % Unmarked % Indifferent % 
134 44% 157 52% 9 3% 4 V 


Like to Hear Others Speak G.P.E. 






FIG. 5.14 






Figure 5.14. Like to Hear Others Speak G.P.E 

If we compare Tables 5.9 and 5.14, we realize that even 
though the respondents would not like to speak GPE 
themselves they would not mind if other people speak it. We 
know that 36% of them said they like to speak GPE and 68% 
said they do not like to speak it. The difference is 32%, 
but when they were asked whether or not they like to hear 
others speak it, 44% indicated "yes" and 52% indicated "no". 
The difference is only 8%. In fact, 54 respondents said 
they do not like to speak pidgin English but they would not 
mind if others speak it. Only 12 respondents said that they 
like to speak pidgin English but they would not like others 
speak it. 

The major reason given by the 54 respondents who say 
they do not like to speak GPE but they would not mind if 


others speak it is that the language is interesting and 

funny. Forty-three of the 54 took this stand, and 17 of 

them indicated that the language serves as a means of 

communication. Some of them indicated both reasons. The 

following are some of the quotations from the respondents. 

It is interesting when two youths are pitched against 
each other in conversation in pidgin English. 

It just amuses me. Quite pleasant to hear the 
uneducated expressing themselves in pidgin English. 

I do really like to hear people speaking pidgin English 
because the language itself is an interesting one. 

It sounds funny and has a touch of humor even when 
serious matters are at stake. 

The coinage of vocabulary for pidgin is quite 
interesting (female) . 

It makes friends, age groups, and co-workers to express 
themselves easily especially where workers or age 
groups are of different ethnic groups and where they 
can't understand each other's language. 

It sounds good and it is full of humor. At times 
people add phrases which are similar to their mother 
tongue. Others will just rattle something funny. "You 
think sey I bi h=o" literally "You think I am 
blockhead". It helps most illiterates to speak at 
least a bit of English. It brings a little bit of 
modification and breaks monotony (female) . 

Yes because it sounds nice to listen to. Secondly, it 
serves as a better communication medium than proper 
English, thus it limits the incidence of class 
distinctions among different classes of people and 
people express themselves better in it. 

Some do not understand all the Ghanaian languages and 
the need to communicate may compel such people to use 
pidgin English. 

Helping in communicating information across where the 
person does not speak one's dialect. 


The adverse effect that pidgin English has or will have 
on the usage of standard English is the main reason given by 
all the 12 respondents who indicated that they like to speak 
pidgin English but they do not like to hear others speak it. 
Only one of them added another reason, "It sounds crude and 
at times raw." 

We further reguested our informants to indicate whether 

or not they think GPE should be encouraged or discouraged 

and from Table 5.15 and Figure 5.15 below most of them think 

that it should be discouraged. 

Table 5.15 
Encouragement of Pidgin English in Ghana 


% Discouraged % No Response % 
15% 235 77% 23 8' 

Encourage or Discourage G.P.E. 







HO. 5.15 



Figure 5.15. Encourage or Discourage G.P.E. 
During our interviews, we asked our informants to tell 
us their attitude towards GPE. We found out that many of 


them wished that GPE did not exist. A journalist said that 

he has no problem with those who have not had any formal 

education speaking GPE, but he is against its use by those 

who can speak standard English but choose to speak GPE when 

it is not necessary. When a female nurse was asked to 

express her attitude towards GPE, she simply said, "It 

annoys me" . A social worker said apart from using GPE as a 

means of communication, he thinks, it should not be used at 

all because it is influencing the usage of standard English 

adversely. Many of the students we interviewed said they 

would not like GPE to be eradicated. Their concern is that 

speakers of GPE should know when it should be used and when 

standard English should be used. A managing director of a 

regional development corporation had this to say when he was 

reguested to express his attitude towards GPE. 

Certainly the language is not ours. It assumes a goal 
by dimension; and guite naturally one would like it 
properly in order to communicate with other peoples all 
over the continent or all over the planet earth. My 
attitude to this pidgin English is certainly not 
healthy. I think, as a former teacher, I've realized 
that this language has affected the writing of most of 
our students in schools. No doubt the results of 
English Language in most of our schools, and even the 
universities, are now becoming appalling. I wouldn't 
like this to be continued. If I can help it, I would 
like it to be discouraged entirely from our 
institutions in the first place and that will naturally 
effect those in our working places. (Source: Mr. 
Ayeh, Managing Director, Central Region Development 
Corporation, Ghana) 


This chapter is a further demonstration of the 

assertion that pidgin is spoken in Ghana. We have discussed 

the speakers of Ghanaian Pidgin English and the places where 
the language is spoken. The major speakers are males, 
students, military and police personnels, youngsters, co- 
workers, and friends. Educational institutions, urban 
areas, work places, lorry stations, military and police 
barracks, and entertainment places are the most obvious 
places where one will hear GPE. The usage of GPE is mostly 
in the spoken mode. There is little usage of GPE in the 
written mode. There is no book that has been written 
entirely in GPE. Authors like Kofi Anyidoho and Ayi Kwei 
Armah have included a page or two of GPE in their works. 
The major written usage of GPE that has received greater 
attention of the reading public is found in the comics of 
Mugu Yaro, Baba Dogo, and Gyato. Speakers of GPE use it for 
communication, entertainment, politics, socialization, and 
fun. The attitude of Ghanaians toward GPE is not 
encouraging. Many people do not want the language to be 
spoken or written. Their major reason for opposing the 
usage of GPE is that it has some adverse effects on both the 
written and spoken usages of standard English. Most 
Ghanaians say that GPE should not be encouraged. 

The methodology used for this research might have 
contributed toward the negative attitude towards GPE. The 
respondents claim not to like to speak pidgin because the 
survey was part of an education project where they expected 
researchers not to like pidgin. Perhaps they have applied 

an argumentum ad populum policy, that is, telling the 
researchers what they want to hear. 



1. Spearman Rank-Order Correlation Coefficient 

Spearman's rho is used when an experimenter or a 
researcher wishes to determine whether two sets of rank- 
ordered data are related. 

As part of our research, we asked informants to 
indicate the people who they think speak Ghanaian Pidgin 
English (GPE) , and also the places where they see or hear 
GPE being spoken. We used Spearman's rho to determine 
whether the ranks of the speakers and those of the places 
are related. Table 1 shows the scores of speakers and 
places of GPE and Table 2 shows the ranks of the scores, the 
difference of the ranks, and the square of the difference of 
the ranks. 

Table 1 Scores on Speakers and Places of Ghanaian Pidgin 


Matched Speakers 













Police Barracks 










Lorry Stations 















Work Places 





Entertainment Place 184 







Gov't. Officials 


Radio Ghana 



Border Guards 







Cinema Houses 



Table 2 Ranks of Speakers and Places of Ghanaian Pidgin 


d 1 




d 12 



























































We used the data in table 2 to compute the value of rs. 

6 (58) 

= 1 - 

(12) - 12 

= .8 
From a table of critical values of rs, the Spearman Rank 
Correlation Coefficient, .8 is significant at p<0.01. This 
means the ranks of the speakers and the places are related. 


The present research has aimed at proving that there 
has been and there is a pidgin English in Ghana. We have 
demonstrated that pidginization of a European language in 
West Africa, and as such Ghana, began with the arrival of 
the Portuguese on the coast of this region around 1500. 
Through trade and settlements among the people of West 
Africa, pidgin Portuguese spread in some parts of the 
region. Some of the linguistic remnants of pidgin 
Portuguese can be found in Ghanaian Pidgin English (GPE) . 
Some of these are words like "sabi", "pikin" , and 
"palava/palaba" . Because of the very close contacts that 
the British traders had with the people of West Africa and 
therefore wanted to have some verbal communication among 
them pidgin English evolved. Another reason for the 
presence of pidgin English in Ghana is that the soldiers of 
Ghana and Britain fought together in the Second World War, 
and the Ghanaian soldiers returned home speaking pidgin 
English. The current emergence and the fast spreading of 
GPE have come about because of illiteracy, military regimes 
in Ghana, urbanization, boarding schools, increase in the 
number of magazines that feature GPE, increase in its use 


for fun, and the increase of contacts between Ghanaians and 
the people of some West African states where pidgin English 
is spoken, especially Nigeria and Liberia. 

Ghanaian Pidgin English (GPE) is an extended pidgin. 
It is not a restricted pidgin or a jargon because it has 
passed the stage where some few specialized vocabulary items 
are communicated among the speakers. The speakers 
communicate in complete fluid discourse. GPE is basilectal 
in that it is an English-based pidgin. The vocabulary and 
even some of the syntax come from the English language. It 
is going through a period when some of the English 
vocabulary items are being replaced with their counterparts 
in the Ghanaian vernaculars. GPE started as a contact 
language between white (the British) and African people and 
has developed in multilingual areas Africans. 

GPE is spreading fast because it is being used to 
create social bonds among the youth, the students, the 
police, the soldiers, and many other social groups. It 
forms part of the lyrics of many Ghanaian Hi-Life songs 
which are usually enjoyed by both the old and the young. 
Because of its popularity among the youth, both educated and 
uneducated, the usage of GPE will be in Ghana for a very 
long time, even though it may not become a Creole since 
children have access to one or more of the 4 5 Ghanaian local 
languages. Another reason why GPE will not become a Creole 
is that it is not a popular language in the homes of its 

speakers. This means it will remain a pidgin for a long 
time to come. 

The phonology, morphology, and the syntax of GPE have 
shown that substrate languages have influence on pidgins. 
It is in the area of vocabulary that the superstrate, which 
in this study is English, has much influence. Even in this 
area, some of the superstrate words acquire different or 
additional meanings from their original meanings. These are 
some of the reasons why we should not think of pidgins as 
corrupt forms of their superstrates. They are totally 
different languages from their superstrates and their 
substrates. After all, there is no mutual intelligibility 
between a pidgin and its superstrate or its substrate. 

This study has shown that pidgin does not thrive mainly 
because of the need for communication for some purposes such 
as trade. Pidgin can thrive because its users want to use 
it as a means of solidarity among themselves, and also 
because it sounds interesting to them. The study has also 
shown that one of the major criteria for the formation of a 
pidgin, which is the lack of a common language, may not be 
very important, since most of GPE speakers have one or two 
of the 45 Ghanaian languages in common that they can use but 
they choose to use GPE on some occasions. 

It is true that many Ghanaians do not like GPE to be 
encouraged because they think it has some adverse effects on 
standard English, but they admit that it is spreading very 

fast and it does not seem that it is going to die sooner or 
later. What is important is that the users of both GPE and 
English should realize that they are different languages, 
and that they should know when it is appropriate to use any 
of them. It is because of this that we have used phonemic 
orthography to sharpen the difference between GPE and 
standard English. 

I hope this research has opened the way for linguists 
and writers to know the existence of pidgin English in 
Ghana, and that more research will be done on it so that it 
can be placed well on the maps of pidgins and Creoles. 



There is a type of English being spoken in Ghana. 
People say it is influencing the spoken standard English of 
many Ghanaians, especially the youth. Many people call it 
Pidgin English. Some people call it Broken English, and 
others call it Kru or Krio English. 

e.g. 1. I no be kid wey dey go fit catch me; who go fit 
catch Yaro? walahi! dey no go fit da. 

2. We no go sit down make dem cheat we everyday. 

This research seeks to determine among other things: 
people's attitude towards the language; the conditions that 
have brought about its emergence; its speakers; where and 
when it is spoken; its vocabulary and structure; and its 
influence on other languages. 

1. Have you spoken Pidgin English before? YES D NO D 

2. Have you written Pidgin English before? YES □ NO n 

3. Do you still speak or write Pidgin English? YES □ NO D 

4. How long have you spoken Pidgin English? ..years ..months 

5. Have you heard other people speaking Pidgin English? 


6. Which people do you hear speaking Pidgin English? (e.g. 
males, females, friends, members of a family, lecturers, 
masters, tutors, teachers, policemen, policewomen, male- 
soldiers, female-soldiers, border guards, navy-men, co- 
workers, age-mates, elders, youngsters, priests, drivers, 
government officials, traders, farmers, students, etc.) 
Please underline and add yours if any. 

7. You speak Pidgin English with which people? 



8. At which places do you hear people speaking Pidgin 
English? (e.g. schools; universities; homes; work-places; 
streets; churches; mosques ; places of entertainment such as 
drinking bars, dances, cinema/video houses, parties, 
playgrounds; barracks; military/police depot; villages; big 
towns; rural areas; urban centres; airports; lorry stations; 
harbours; border-posts; Radio Ghana (G.B.C.); etc.) Please, 
underline and add yours if any. 

9. Where do you usually speak Pidgin English in Ghana? 

10. Why do you think people speak Pidgin English in Ghana? 

11. Which sex group speaks Pidgin English more than the 
other? Male □ Female D 

12. Do you like to speak Pidgin English? YES D NO □ 
Please give reason (s) for your answer 

13. Do you like to hear other people speaking Pidgin 

English? YES □ NO n 

Please give reason (s) for your answer , 

14. Will you like the speaking of Pidgin English be 
encouraged or discouraged? ENCOURAGED D DISCOURAGED □ 

15. (a) Do people use words from Ghanaian languages in their 
Pidgin English? YES □ NO □ 

(b) If YES, give examples of such words and the language (s) 
they take them from 

16. Write the titles of Ghanaian newspapers, magazines, 
books, etc., in which you have found Pidgin English 


17. (a) Write the titles of Ghanaian songs which are or were 
sung in Pidgin English. You may write the groups which sing 
or sang them 

(b) Why do you think they sing in Pidgin English? 

18. How do you think Pidgin English is spreading in Ghana? 
(i) spreading slowly; (ii) spreading fast; (iii) dying out; 
(iv) not found in Ghana. 

19. How do people learn to speak Pidgin English in Ghana? 
(e.g. by travelling to a country/countries where Pidgin 
English is spoken; through friends; through trade; by 
reading magazines or books written in Pidgin English; by 
joining the armed/police forces; etc.) Please underline and 
add yours if any 

20. Which event (s) has/have contributed towards the 
introduction and spread of Pidgin English in Ghana? 

21. Please provide the following information about yourself: 

(a) sex: male □ female n 

(b) age: 15 years-25 years □; 26-30 0; 31-40 □; 

41-50 0; over 50 □; 

(c) Occupation ; place of occupation 

(d) Levels of education you have passed through (e.g. public 
elementary school; preparatory/experimental elementary 
school; secondary school form 5; sixth form; teacher 
training college (4-yr. ) /post-secondary ; technical college; 
vocational college; commercial college; diploma institution; 
police training school; military academy; university; etc.) 

(e) Are you a student? YES D NO n if YES state 
level and class (e.g. secondary school Form 3, University 
2 nd year , etc . ) 

(f) What languages do you speak? 


(g) Where do you stay? town 

district region 

22. Contact address: 


Pidgin English Research Project 

Department of Linguistics 

University of Ghana 

P. 0. Box 61 

Legon, Accra 






Adoolttf Irom Mo» at GMJIW (.onfuogei »/ lofvav C*"™. Ltoon one) Gfiono InKI'iiO of Uncunii'ci . 198 




If yu no go, a go tel am. 

"If you don't go, I will tell him/her." 

Dem go si sey yu de lay. 

"They'll see that you're lying." OR 

"They'll be able to tell that you're lying." 

De tam wey yu kam i bi mi yu si f => hi e . 
"When you came, I was the one you saw here." 

Kam kwik i f yu f 3 si am. 

"Come early in order to see him." 

Lak (like) yu kam yestadey, wi get plenti . 

"If you'd come yesterday (you'd have seen that) we had 

a lot." 

Yu de spr> (spoil) ma w^k (work) f=> mi. 
"You're getting in my way." OR 
"You're ruining my chances at my job." 

Kam Sondey, a go go f^ ma fam. 
"I'll go to my farm on Sunday." 

Sat^dey lak dis, a go f= maket. 

"I usually go to the market on Saturdays." 

Wey tam kach, a go go si am. 

"When the time comes, I'll go and see him/her." 

Wey a do ma w^k finish, a slip f=> ma rum. 

"When I finish (doing) my work, I go to sleep in my 

(bed) room. " 

A f=> tel am sey, mek i no kam leyt. 

"I must/should tell him/her not to be late." OR 

"I am to tell him/her not to be late." 

A dz>n tel am sey, mek i no du am, bat i no mal mi. 
"I have told him/her not to do it, but he/she doesn't 
pay any attention (to me)." 


Wey bi de tain? 
What's the time? 

I aks mi ba(t) mi, a tel am sey, a no no. 
"He/She asked me, but I told him/her that I 
don't/didn't know." 

I bi so a tel am, ba(t) i no 'giriy. 

"That's what I told him/her but he/she wouldn't hear of 


Wey mun day, a go go f^ ma k=>ntri / tawn. 

"I shall go to my hometown at the end of the month." 

Dem go pey wi wey mun day, den a go go f=> ma kz>ntri 


"They'll pay us at the end of the month, then I'll go 

home /to my hometown." 

A beg yu tu borow mi y^> pen sm^. 

"Please lend me your pen for a short while." 

Wey tin yu de w=>n f=> hie (at =3) ? 

"What do you want here (anyway)?" OR 

"What are you looking for around here (anyway)? 

Weyt am; i go kam j^s naw. 

"Wait for him/her; he'll soon be here." 

Wey a sak am f a hi e , i veks f=> mi pr3pa! 

"When I sacked him/her from here, he/she was very angry 

with me . " OR 

"When I drove him/her away from here, he/she became 

very angry with me . " 

I t=>k sey i sabi yu. Yu tu yu sabi am? 

"He/She says he/she knows you. Do you also know 

him/her. " 

Mek dem kam kwik. 

"They should come soon." OR "Let them come soon." 

I go fa pies. I kip l=>n(g) (naw) . I f^ kam horn si 
im mcda/fada. I de grow (old) . 

"He/she has gone abroad for a long time. He/She should 
come home and see his/her mother/ father. He/She is 
getting old." 



The Lexicon ; Most of the words of the Ghanaian Pidgin English 
(GPE) come from English, but some of the English words take on 
different meanings in GPE. e.g. 

plus (line 34, 37, 39 ( 
fit (line 43, 45) 

say (line 51, 58, 61) 
for (line 12, 59) 

60) and, with 

can, have the ability to 
do something 

say, complementizer 'that' 
must, should 


L=Lady ; M=Man . 

1. L: a no go lov bia. 

a de l^v ginis rada. 

M: ginis? 

L: i bi ginis a de lov. 

5. M: mi, a tek bia o ginis a, 
den ma ays de klos so 
i bi ogogro wey i yus 
fo mi. 

L: yu si o, wey wi tek 
10. yu tek de ogogro na mi 

a tek de ginis a 

wi fo go disko. 

yu sabi mi die may problem 

i bi dansin, soso dansin 
15. so wi go go disko. 

wot kay disko sey 

yu won es 

M: nadisko; de bes wan. 

L: a w=>n bushwa 
20. a won bushwa disko 

I will not like beer. 
I like Guiness rather. 


It is Guiness that I like. 

Me, if I take beer or Guiness 
then my eyes are closing, so 
it is ogogro which is good 
for me. 

You see, when we take, 
you take the ogogro and I 
I take the Guiness, 
we should go to a disco. 
You know, for me, my problem 
is dancing, just dancing 
so we will go to a disco. 
What kind of disco is it that 
you want us 

Nadisco; the best one. 

I want a bourgeois 

I want a bourgeois disco. 



M: bushwa disko, 

den wi go go insayd 
diasi h^l, siti hotel. 

L: a swe , 
25. dat pleys wey 

de rayt pleys 

a w=>n tu t^k tu yu. 

i bi de pleys a de l=>f. 

a no de lak eni ada pleys, 
3 0.M: bik=>s fr=>m de tu 

i nia ma haws paa 

L: ei so yu shw^ sey 
a de go yu= haws 
plas yu? 

35.M: ou, dat, haw? 

L: mi, dos hu de go 
aut plas mi, 
a no de go dem haws 
plas dem. 

40.M: ou haw? 

L: afta dat, mi a go 
ma haws. 

M: so yu fit go drink 
S3m w=>ta. 
yu f 1 1 go dri nk 
45. s^m w=>ta. 

L: mm dat wan die 
i no yus. 
dat wan di e 

ma mami no t=>k mi dat. 

Bourgeois disco, 

then we will go inside 

Dease Hall, City Hotel. 

I swear, 

that is the place which, 

the right place 

I want to talk to you about 

It is the place I like. 

I don't like any other place. 

Because from there too, 

it is very near to my house. 

Ei, so you are sure that 
I am going to your house 
with you? 

Oh, that, how? 

Me, those who go 

out with me, 

I don't go to their house 

with them. 

Oh how? 

After that, I go to 
my house. 

So you can go and drink 
some water. 
You can go and drink 
some water. 

No, as for that one, 

it is not good. 

As for that one, 

my mother didn't teach me that 

Some words in GPE come from Ghanaian native languages; die 

(lines 13, 46) means 'as for .. 
(line 10) means 'and'. 

50. L: w^t abawt yu=> wayf? 
ihii yu t=>k sey 
yu get wayf. 

M: ma wayf? 

L: a sey, wey i de? 
55. wey i de? 

paa (line 31) means 'very', na 

What about your wife? 
Ahaa, you said that 
you have a wife. 

My wife? 

I see, where is she? 
Where is she? 


M: ou a fit tek 
bapas am. 

L: na yu, yu t^k sey 

a de, a f=> go yu=> haws 
60. plas yu, 

yu f=>get sey 
yu=> wayf de? 

Oh I can 
bypass her. 

And you, you said that, 

I'll, I must go to your house 

with you, 

You forgot that 

your wife is present? 

There are also some Portuguese words in GPE, e.g. sabi (line 13) 
means 'to know' or 'to understand', and pikin (line 63) means 
'child' or 'children'. 

L: haw meni, pikins 
yu get, sayd ishus 

65. M: mi, ou, a get 
wan m=> tu ten. 

How many children 

do you have, side issues? 

Me? Oh, I have 
one more to ten. 

S^faS^fa Suffer Suffer 

evirib^di go si 
wi d in neked ay 
in di s weld 

evirib^di go si 
wid in neked ay 
in di s weld 

bi f=> yu go li v 
na yu go no 
haw yu go do 

bi f ^ yu go hapi 
na yu go no 
nobodi go no 

soso tayataya 
eviridey ma de taya 
soso tayataya 
eviridey ma de taya 
soso tayataya 
eviridey ma de s=>fa 


papa chika 
legos gay 
haw wi go muv 

everybody will see 
with his/her naked eye 
in this world. 

everybody will see 
with his/her naked eye 
in this world. 

before you will live 
it is you who will know 
how you will do. 

before you'll be happy 
it is you who will know, 
nobody will know. 

it is all tiredness tiredness 
everyday man is always tired, 
it is all tiredness tiredness 
everyday man is always tired, 
it is all tiredness tiredness 
everyday man is always suffering, 


Papa Chika 

Lagos Guy 

how shall we move 


in di s legos 
na wao 

soso tayataya 
eviridey ma de taya 
soso tayataya 
eviridey ma de taya 
soso tayataya 
eviridey ma de S3fa 
papa chika 

m^ni d^n k^s am oo 
m=>ni d=>n k=>s am oo 

in (this) Lagos? 
it is tough. 

it is all tiredness tiredness 
everyday man is always tired, 
it is all tiredness tiredness 
everyday man is always tired, 
it is all tiredness tiredness 
everyday man is always suffering, 
Papa Chika. 

money has really caused it. 
money has caused it. 

m=>ni , mam d^n k^s am oo it's money that has caused it. 


remi, luk yu^ han 

a beg 
tek tam 
wayo wayo 

m^m d=>n k=s am oo 
mzini d=>n k^s am oo 
m^ni d=>n k^s am oo 

eviridey ma de taya 
bif=> yu go ch=>p 
eviridey ma de taya 
bif=> yu go get bi sines 
eviridey ma de taya 
bif3 yu go slip 
eviridey ma de taya 



luk yu= han welwel oo 

wayo wayo 


na so a lak am 


Remi, (look) be careful about your hands 

I beg you. 

take (your) time. 

little by little. 

money has really caused it. 
money has really caused it. 
money has caused it. 

everyday man is always tired. 

before you'll eat 

everyday man is always tired. 

before you'll get business 

everyday man is always tired. 

before you'll sleep 

everyday man is always tired. 



(look) be careful about your hand. 

little by little 


and that is how I like it. 


(J=Joe; K=Kofi Sammy) 

naw yu^ "s^fa s=>fa" 
yu sin s^m s^n 
wey yu sey s^fa s^fa 
way yu sin dis s=m 

now your 'Suffer Suffer' 

you sang a song 

in which you say 'Suffer Suffer' 

why did you sing this song? 


5. K: yu no 

bif= de go b=n yu 

yu go no w=>t yu go do 

J: mhm 

K: en yu, as yu de 
10. yu^ papa go tich yu 

J: mhm 

K: i go tich yu finis 
yu go no se_ 
a papa de t^K tru oo 
15. so dis tin wey papa 
de t=>k na s=>fa s=>fa 

J: mhm 

you know 

before you're born 

you'll know what you'll do. 


and you, as you live, 

your father will teach you. 


he'll finis teaching you 

you'll know that 

yes, father was spaking the truth. 

so this thing which father 

was saying is suffering suffering. 


K: yea 

das way a sin 

2 O.J: yu sin am f=> hwe 

K: a sin am f= onisa 
oni. . , najeria 


thus why I sang. 

you sang it at where? 

I sang it at Onitsha 
On. . , Nigeria. 



1 . i f a du ma ti n 
mek yu no jel=>s 
i f a du ma ti n 
mek yu no jel^s 

5. jel3>si go she(m) 
wayo go she(m) 
jel^si go she(m) 
wayo tu go she(m) 

i f a du ma ti n 
10. mek yu no jel^s 
i f a du ma ti n 
mek yu no jel^s 
jel^si go she(m) 
wayo go she(m) 
15. jel^si go she(m) 
wayo tu go she(m) 


If I do my thing 

Don't be jealous 

If I do my thing 

Don't be jealous 

The jealous one will be ashamed. 

The trickster will be ashamed. 

The jealous one will be ashamed. 

The trickster too will be ashamed, 

If I do my thing 

Don't be jealous 

If I do my thing 

Don't be jealous 

The jealous one will be ashamed. 

The trickster will be ashamed. 

The jealous one will be ashamed. 

The trickster too will be ashamed. 







si sta ee 
mek yu no 
br^da e 
mek yu no 
si sta ee 
mek yu no 
jel=>si go 
wayo tu go 




if yu si ma tin 
mek yu no jel^s 
i f yu si ma wayf 
mek yu no jel^s 
if yu si ma s^n oo 
mek yu no jel=>s 
jel^si go she(m) 
wayo tu go kwench 

i f yu si ma haws 
mek yu no jel=>s 
i f yu si ma w=>k 
mek yu no jel^s 
i f yu si ma s^n oo 
mek yu no jel=>s 
jel^si go she(m) 
wayo tu go kwench 

yu bi drava 

a bi aboro 

yu=> w^k di fi rcn 

ma own difiren oo 


Don't be jealous 


Don't be jealous 


Don't be jealous 

The jealous one will be ashamed. 

The trickster too will be ashamed. 

If you see my thing 

Don't be jealous 

If you see my wife 

Don't be jealous 

If you see my son 

Don't be jealous 

The jealous one will be ashamed. 

The trickster too will be finished. 

If you see my house 

Don't be jealous 

If you see my work 

Don't be jealous 

If you see my son 

Don't be jealous 

The jealous one will be ashamed. 

The trickster too will be finished. 

You are a driver 
I am a bus/car conductor. 
Your work is different 
Mine is different 

45. yu bi ticha 
a bi treda 
yu^> w^k difiren 
ma on di fi ren oo 
mek yu no jel^s 
i f yu jel^s 
yu go she(m) 
jel=>si go she(m) 
wayo tu go kwench 

You are a teacher 

I am a retailer 

Your work is different 

Mine is different 

Don't be jealous 

If you are jealous 

You'll be ashamed 

The jealous one will be ashamed. 

The trickster too will be finished. 







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I Why did Super Uugu Ydro International tell the Hotel Manager he uxu called Alfredo Pett Dojouthlnk^ 
Yaro hat something tohldet Will the Ghanaian gift betray Yarot Gel the anxwen from Vol 10 






Who do you think it ringing Super Mugu Yarn International? Is U trueithatUUhUlondon,, 
partnerf Find out more aboulYaro't tricks in Vol It. __^ 





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Yarn has two major problems to clear. First: Will he succeed in winning the love of this sophisticated 
I out beautiful air hostess! Second: How does Yaro make sure his former Master will not *« himl 
Jjucss what Yaro will do. But if you are in doubt read Vol. 14. 



el-rue mm at %, /-\ i-ooou/iesfoe r^ 

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I had my elemantary school education in Ghana from 1951 
to 1961. I attended a four-year teacher's college, Saint 
Joseph's Training College at Bechem in Ghana, where I 
obtained a teacher's Certificate "A" diploma in 1968. After 
teaching in the elementary schools in Ghana from 1968 to 
1974, I attended a teachers' specialist college at the 
School of Ghana Languages at Ajumako in Ghana, where, for 
two years, I specialized in the teaching of Akan and 
languages in general. I taught Akan and English at the 
Sunyani Secondary School for one year and then entered the 
University of Ghana to study for a B.A. degree in 1977 which 
I obtained with honors in linguistics and Swahili in 1981. 
I spent the 1979-80 academic year at the University of Dar 
Es Salam in Tanzania for proficiency in Swahili. From 1981 
to 1984, I was a teaching assistant at the Department of 
Linguistics at the University of Ghana. During the same 
period I was a part-time teacher of linguistics and English 
at the Advanced Teacher Training College at Winneba in 
Ghana. I was also an examiner of English language for the 
West African Examination Council and the Royal Society of 


I started a graduate program in linguistics at the 
University of Iowa in Iowa City in 1985, and obtained my 
M.A. degree in 1987. I began a doctoral work in linguistics 
at the University of Florida in Gainesville in 1987. I was 
accepted as a Ph.D. candidate in 1989. I have been teaching 
linguistics and Swahili at the Ohio University in Athens 
since 1990. 

I certify that I have read this study and that in my 
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly 
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, 
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. 



Allan Burns, 'Chair 
Professor of Linguistics 

*- ?r^ 

I certify that I have read this study and that in my 
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly 
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, 
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. 

J/qhn Lipski/ CocRair 
'rofessor /f Linguistics 

I certify that I have read this study and that in my 
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly 
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, 
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. 

( /MM1C& 

Chauncey Chu 

Professor of Linguistics 

I certify that I have read this study and that in my 
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly 
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, 
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. 


Norman Markel 

Professor of Linguistics 

I certify that I have read this study and that in my 

opinion it conforms to acceptab 
presentation and is fully adeq 
as a dissertation for the degr 

andards of scholarly 

in scope arid quality, 

Doctor ofc/Phi^tfsophy. 


Goran Hyden 
Professor of Po 

cal Science 

Th is dissertation was . submitted tc , the .Faculty 
o£ the Program in ^^urstics ^f^fwas accepted as. 

StSS^SiSLS of tneleguirLents ior the degree or 

Doctor of Philosophy. 

December 1992 

Dean, Graduate School 


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